El Tucán Brings “That Old-World Feeling of Dinner and a Show” to Brickell

El Tucán isn't releasing any photos of the club until its grand opening.
El Tucán isn't releasing any photos of the club until its grand opening.
Illustration Courtesy of El Tucán

Glitz, glamour, and vintage charm. That's what Brickell's newest party palace El Tucán hopes to bring to the Magic City when it swings open its doors this weekend.

Tucked in the corner of SW First Avenue and SW 11th Street in Brickell, El Tucán promises to transport guests to a time when cabaret was king.

“It's like that Old-World feeling of dinner and a show,” describes Emilia Menocal, El Tucán's creative director.

From the ticket booth at the door to the curtains that mask the grand entrance of the theater-style venue, everything about the lounge is reminiscent of 1940s Cuba with a modern-day twist. Trompe-l'oeil murals designed by New York artist and Emilia's cousin, Happy Menocal, cover the venue's walls.

Emilia Menocal knows a thing or two about Cuba. In 2006, she directed the Charlize Theron-produced documentary East of Havana, which told the story of '80s underground hip-hop on the island of Cuba.

Her vision for Tucán is a far cry from the traditional Miami nightclub. 

“It's 60 to 70 percent Latin music, but the main thread is soul and true musicianship,” explains Gaby Mejia, El Tucán's artistic director. “The Tropicana in Havana, during the '40s and '50s [although predominantly comprised of Latin artists and music] used to invite international musicians like Nat King Cole.”

While the musical direction at the Brickell hot spot mirrors that of the legendary Cuban nightclub, the entertainment is centered on El Tucán's 11-piece big Latin house band led by Grammy award-winning composer and producer, Marlow Rosado. 

In true cabaret fashion, the nights starts off with a variety show ranging from vignette performances to burlesque dancers and tap dancing. “Then boom!” Mejia yells. “The 11-piece band hits the stage for about 45 minutes, and then its the second show. Later into the night, a DJ comes out.”

“The DNA is Latin,” adds Menocal. “There hasn't been a really chic place in Miami where you can have big band Latin music. This is a much more intimate setting.”

Owned by Michael Ridard and Mathieu Massa — owners of the Bâoli Group and the swanky South Beach lounge Bâoli Miami — the two-story, 6,587-square-foot space, which formerly housed the Hoxton and the Lucky Clover, was designed by New York's Robert McKinley, the creative mastermind behind the Big Apple's Sant Ambroeus, GoldBar, and the Surf Lodge.

With a stage, dance floor, and two bars, the main floor of El Tucán is where all the action happens. Overlooking the pachanga on the second floor is a third bar and sitting area — which Menocal adds can “be privatized for up to 150 people" and has its own private entrance. Hidden beneath the staircase is the Green Room, a VIP room and bar reserved for performers and their entourage.

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But la pièce de résistance at El Tucán is the main bar. Not because of the selection of cocktails hand-crafted by Gabriel Orta and Elad Zvi of Bar Lab, but because of the original Murano chandelier overlooking the bar, which was shipped in from Paris.

“Pure elegance,” is how Menocal describes the décor. “I want people to stand up straight and be wowed.”

“In everything we do,” Mejia proceeds, “maintaining integrity is very important.”

With two dinner seatings available at 8 and 10 p.m., that same philosophy applies to the food as well, which is prepared by Chef Jean Paul Lourdes of the adjoining eatery, Marion. While the cuisine and venues are two separate entities, the Mediterranean restaurant and El Tucán share the same kitchen.

Variety is key at El Tucán, but for Mejia, Menocal, and the rest of the crew, their goal is to provide the 305 a place where party animals can both have a fun time and be exposed to top notch performances.

“A lot of live music acts don't come to Miami,” Mejia says. “We look [for acts with a] timeless quality, but also want to bring in a lot of new talent.” But El Tucán aren't the only new kids on the block in Brickell. V&E Restaurant Group's new nightclub Blume just moved into the neighborhood too, less than a half mile from Tucán. And with the nearby Burger & Beer Joint, Blackbird Ordinary, and American Social also vying for customers, El Tucán — like every new nightlife concept in Miami — will face an uphill battle.

But, for now, that's not fazing Mejia and Menocal.

“We want it to become a home for the young professionals of Brickell and artists of Wynwood,” says Menocal. “Studio 54 became a place where everyone felt welcomed. We hope El Tucán can become that.”

El Tucán Grand Opening Weekend. With Freddie King, Puddles Pity Party, Chargeaux, Marlow Rosado, DJs Shamizo, and Discorocks. Friday and Saturday, October 2 and 3, 8 p.m. El Tucán, 1111 SW First Ave., Miami; 305-­535-­0065; eltucanmiami.com. Admission is free. Ages 21 and up.

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El Tucán

1111 SW 1st Ave.
Miami, FL 33130



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