On a recent Saturday night, Karu & Y (71 NW 14th St., Miami; 305-403-7850) gave new meaning to the phrase disco inferno. Inside the 5000-square-foot Tottem Lounge, one of the sprawling complex's clubs-within-a-club, a Seventies-theme party unfolded hellishly. But to be fair, Hell and that decade had a lot in common. After all, hedonist haven Studio 54 and bad boy Richard Nixon were both condemnable markers of that time. Fortunately bell-bottoms, Afros, and other sinful Seventies getups were missing from Karu's scene. The strict door policy doesn't allow much fun for costumes anyway.
As much as the event planners tried to re-create the self-indulgent merriment of the decade, the ambiance was stiff. Chalk it up to the $20 parking, overpriced drinks, and exceedingly polished crowd. Flowing print dresses and starched button-up shirts decorated stuffy attendees, and almost everyone was forced to stand despite the abundance of seats — all were reserved for VIP bottle-buyers.
Couples danced on a multicolor light-up floor as Saturday Night Fever played on screens around the room. Security guards watched the proceedings with a hawk's eye and spoke into their headsets. The DJ dropped expected tracks like "Turn the Beat Around" and "Staying Alive," and even dipped into the Eighties with "Material Girl." But perhaps the most fitting song of the night was "Macho Man." In fact the crowd response was overwhelming enough to make the DJ turn up the volume.
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Outside, partygoers were grooving to DJ Aaron Feld's dance music. Even Feld bobbed himself into a sweaty frenzy. The alfresco partying was all the more refreshing with seats you didn't have to pay to sit on. A glass-encased waterfall covered the bar, and fanned cabanas lined one end of the garden. "In a place like this, it's all about the money," mused Frank G. "That guy right there probably has $500 cash," he said, pointing to a well-coiffed man in a pink shirt. "Him?" he continued, referring to another bystander, "probably $30." Right on cue, the woman standing with the "$30" man dropped her complimentary whiskey sour (the only free thing at the party). Perhaps she heard us.