New South of Fifth Lounge Sophie's Brings Downtown Cool Back to the Beach

Lito Vidaurre
South Beach is having another nightlife renaissance, and this time, it's understated over garish and excessive, inclusive over pretentious, and laid-back but with an undeniable edge. Perhaps no venue better embodies the world-famous party mecca's breezy new attitude than Sophie's, a South of Fifth gem that's been steadily drawing Miami's cool-kid crowd back from the mainland since opening during Art Basel last December.

Housed in the old Radio Bar space, Sophie's is the latest concept from Philippe "Flip" Falca, creator of Minibar and creative director at Urbanica, a new elevated bohemian boutique hotel that also calls South of Fifth home.

"There was just something missing on South Beach, a place that's not a shitty bar or a megaclub," Falca says of the driving idea behind Sophie's. "There are very few spots available for a person searching for that kind of vibe." 
click to enlarge LITO VIDAURRE
Lito Vidaurre
So what exactly is the vibe at Sophie's? "Think of it like a small Bardot," about half the size and with a patio, says Fabio Galarce of Dude Skywalker, the hard-working group of DJs and Miami party-starters who run Thursday night's Danse party at Sophie's.

Like Midtown's now-shuttered Bardot, Sophie's is intimate, with a capacity of just 180, and distinctively sexy. Thanks to Falca's singular vision, Sophie's stands out as a unique, impeccably designed space, filled with sensuous details such as pink velvet-tufted couches, black marble tabletops, and abstract nude female caricatures papering the walls.

"I like making it for the girls, to be honest," Falca says of the aesthetic. "What's going to make them say, 'Oh, that's so cute!' I love that reaction from them." He also drew on his French roots in designing Sophie's, inspired by the luxe Parisian discos and lounges of the '90s that made their way to New York and Miami during that era.
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Lito Vidaurre
The venue's opening week during Art Basel set the tone for the space, drawing an "eclectic group of kids, cool art kids, cool DJs" who helped make Sophie's feel a bit like a downtown New York spot, Falca says. "It had a very Le Baron vibe." As word has spread, the lounge continues to attract a mixed crowd of in-the-know locals and tourists seeking an edgier SoBe experience.

Music programming is open format and another big draw for those exasperated by the increasingly oversaturated Brickell and Wynwood neighborhoods. Dude Skywalker's Danse Thursdays in particular capture "that downtown Miami vibe," Falca says. "It's exciting for me because the whole thing behind a lot of the concept with Sophie's is getting that crowd back on the Beach."

Going into its sixth week, Danse offers a rotating lineup of some of Miami's best underground dance DJs, including Freckles, Patrick Walsh, and Kike Roldán. For WMC Thursday, the crew has booked dreamy, experimental synth producer Clarian, who has releases on labels such as Visionquest and Life and Death. Like all of Sophie's parties, Danse is free (until it reaches capacity).

"It's been building quite nicely," Galarce says of Sophie's momentum. "It's really been like a grassroots, locals thing. And with the combination of the tourists and the locals crowd, it's really something special and unique."

Sophie's. 814 First St., Miami Beach; 305-318-7745; Thursday through Sunday 6 p.m. to 5 a.m.