Shaquille O'Neal was not at Amika's grand opening this past Friday. I searched and searched for the seven-feet-one NBA superstar, expecting him to be there and hoping to corner him, but the closest thing I found was an Amazonian drag queen who plopped herself on one of the "loft lounge's" two bars. I actually confused the RuPaul ringer for a basketball player who was known to dress like a woman: Dennis Rodman. "Your momma is Dennis Rodman," the drag queen told me in reply to my insistence that she was in fact Rodman. Well, she was just as volatile as the man who is often overlooked as one of the first openly bisexual professional athletes. The drag queen even got into it with one of the hostesses for the club, offering an extended middle finger to the young lady. But back to the opening of the new club on Washington Avenue, which promises a niche for the demographic clubland seems to be forgetting of late, grownups.
The first pleasant surprise was that Amika opened on time. This is a major accomplishment. Most clubs, such as the yet-to-be-opened Nocturnal, blow opening dates by weeks, even months. Don't let the punctuality mislead you, though -- the joint has some kinks to work out of the technical variety. The upstairs VIP room of the onetime synagogue is still undergoing renovations. The main room is obviously influenced by a lounge Amika aims to take business from, Mynt. It is long and narrow, the white-on-white scheme giving all skin tones an unhealthy pallor in the too-well-lit boxy room. There is no real dance floor to speak of, but rump shakers aren't the preferred patrons anyway. The public face of Amika, minority owner and director Tony Guerra, says he's catering to "bottle buyers and young professionals with credit cards." Basically Amika wants to give nightlife a party where slacks and little black dresses, not faded jeans, are the attire of choice. Clubs, even the exclusive ones such as Mynt and Prive, have skewed toward the trendy, the hip, and the fashionistas over the past couple of years, and Guerra believes now is the time to get back to partying with class.
Guerra was brought into the fold by a group of New York investors based on his record of success at places such as Opium Garden. The 33-year-old Guerra returned to the nightlife biz after spending last year focused on his campaign for a seat on the Miami Beach City Commission. He lost to Simon Cruz but garnered plenty of attention with his grassroots campaign. To mark his homecoming to clubland, Guerra ran his Land Rover into a tree on May 14 and was subsequently booked for driving under the influence. The incident only added to his notoriety for being a Charlie Sheen-like bad boy, which works in his favor considering the line of work he has chosen.
Some of the usual suspects came out to wish Guerra luck. His younger brother Emi made the two-block trek from crobar, where he's the marketing director. Miami Beach Commissioner Luis Garcia showed up as well. Garcia is one city official nightlife should never fear; he may be in his sixties, but the man is a party boy. He staunchly defended the industry during the tense hearings that aimed to curtail loud music and rowdy behavior in South Pointe and Sunset Harbour this past April, and he appeared on the cover of Cafeteria's menu, posing with the Trend Tracker, Tara Gilani.
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Buster was there doing his usual A3-TV shtick. And Michael Capponi made an appearance as well. The man behind Fridays at Prive spent the night sizing up the new competition. When I asked him what he thought of the revamped club, he merely shrugged and said, "It's not the place that makes the place, it's the people at the party." Nuggets of wisdom from Capponi make my world go round.
Then there was the fog machine. Amika has a powerful one. It emitted a wall of smoke, producing a disorienting whiteout I haven't experienced since rolling in the back room at Liquid on two lemon drops and half a wafer five years ago. Completely blinded, I began to yell over the music to the faint silhouettes around me: "Can you see? What the fuck is going on?" No one responded, which sort of hurt my feelings at the time. Looking back, I figure since it was so hard to see, people probably didn't know I was talking to them. Anyway, I started to shove my way toward the entrance. As I approached the main bar, the smoke cleared away. The smokeless air wasn't as clarifying as I'd hoped; it only helped me to realize I was sauced.
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