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When iconic South Beach party spot Rokbar closed in 2011, the time was right. It had enjoyed a seven-year run — an eternity by SoBe nightclub standards — with plenty of noteworthy moments. So perhaps that's why news of the Collins Avenue joint's reopening came as a surprise.
In its original incarnation, celebrity sightings at Rokbar were common, including then-part-owner Tommy Lee, actor Josh Hartnett, hot mess Courtney Love, local boy Mickey Rourke, and the crunktastic Lil Jon, to name just a few. Yet the velvet rope was rarely a hassle.
The lounge brought together a motley crew (pun intended) of A-listers, tourists, hipsters, and everyone in between. And the place had an intimate atmosphere that blurred the line between VIPs and the common clubgoer.
Rokbar 2.0 is only two months old, and it doesn't look much different from the last remodel, which gave the space a bit of Daft Punk style (black leather, gold trim, and futuristic screens).
The only major difference: Those ten-foot-tall images of models behind the bar are gone, replaced with shelving for premium liquor. Also, the ledge behind the sofas (where many an inebriated party girl liked to dance) has been widened and given a different backdrop — a spectacular LED-framed guitar that's reflected ad infinitum thanks to some well-placed mirrors.
"We don't want to pay celebrities to come to our place," managing partner and owner Hershey Jakob says. "We want to bring Rokbar back like when it first opened."
To bolster his point, Jakob mentions that Gym Class Heroes' Travie McCoy stopped by earlier this month to celebrate his birthday. And as soon as the high season kicks in, he expects more high-profile clients.
But why not start from scratch with a new concept? "If I was going to do something different, I would have just gone somewhere else."
Still, repeating Rokbar's epic past will be difficult. Acts such as MSTRKRFT, Neon Indian, LA Riots, Cut Copy, and the Misshapes contributed to the lounge's distinctive edge in the early days. And that aura of riskiness has always made the club a welcome anomaly on Collins Avenue.
However, with South Beach locked in the low season, Rokbar is open only Fridays and Saturdays. So it would be unfair to heap any hasty criticism on it. Especially because this place, even with its cheesy Tommy Lee past, holds a special place in New Times' undeniably blurry nightlife memory.
Here's hoping the new owners honor the glory days of Rokbar.