To view the full slideshow of photos from the club's opening, click here.
Exit Sixty Six, the new big-box club to open in Fort Lauderdale Beach, represents the continuation of two trends. First, there's the development of fancy Miami club companies opening new venues in Broward. The Opium Group made a ripple in clubland when it recently moved its namesake club from South Beach to the Seminole Hard Rock. Exit Sixty Six represents a similar attempt, this time by the folks who brought you the now-defunct crobar.
Second, the club represents a new step in the much-vaunted upscaling of Fort Lauderdale Beach that's been talked about over the last couple of years. That's a project that's going to take a long time -- Rock Bar, Elbo Room, the Pirate Republic and company all still draw big crowds. And while you or I may not personally prefer to party with frat bros in cargo shorts, does South Florida really need another strip of overpriced steakhouses in boutique hotels? Luckily Exit Sixty Six represents a sort of happy medium, a relatively fancy experience for the neighborhood (no flip-flops or baseball caps here), but still one that's pretty inclusive. Despite the very healthy turnout this past weekend, there were minimal door hassles, and an average well cocktail costs just $6.25.
Yes, the space is the old Atlantis, but it might take you a minute to remember raving there a decade ago. The indoor/outdoor vibe remains, but everything else has been given an overhaul. The theme here, evident from the logo alone, is a sort of rockabilly-Americana-road sign thing -- kind of like that "rock" room Rehab at Parkwest, or a tiny bit like the junk-shop vibe of the old Pawn Shop, or more like an Automatic Slim's blown up into club size.
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As it stands now, there are, of course, both downsides and upsides to the place. The first big design mistake is the traffic pattern between the outside, poolside tiki bar area and the inside dance room. You have to reach it by walking through a narrow hallway with a single door, which quickly gets bottlenecked -- management realized this quickly on Friday night and installed a bouncer in charge of controlling the human traffic there. Not comfortable, especially when, once inside, you have to get shoved past a set of full-blast speakers. Still, the inside room boasts a huge dance floor, a welcome change from boites of late who devoted most of their real estate to bottle service. Unfortunately, it's made of some kind of wood that, when covered with spilled drink, becomes so slippery as to seem deadly -- women in stilettos, beware and walk around the perimeter.
The DJ selection inside, however, was wise -- Miami's Joe Dert spun for the most crowded part of the night. And while a lot of his selections, when I peeked in, seemed to consist of dance remixes of old rock songs, Dert's biggest strength is in playing to his crowd. The best DJs read the energy below and keep the floor packed, and Dert never fails to do so.
The outside area -- the real chilled-out, unique gem of this place -- has a stage devoted to live music, and on Friday night Miami's dark rockabilly-ish trio the Axe and the Oak played. That's cool, but the bummer thing is that there's some kind of live-music ordinance that forces the acts to play early. The DJ selected to play out here, Sean Weeks, was also a good idea. While inside is all about musical populism, outside is more eclectic, with Weeks throwing down tracks by Ratatat and other relatively left-field artists. The outside area, as well, is livened up with the artwork -- both painted and human -- of the folks from Kreepytiki Lounge and Tattoo Gallery.
Look, club snobs will probably not specifically travel to this place. Denizens of the glossy places in South Beach, or even some in the Seminole Hard Rock, will not find it exclusive enough. Hipsters, meanwhile, will likely scoff at the rock-lite decor, the open music policy, and the gaggles of pneumatic girls with suntan lines. Still, that leaves a vast audience of folks just looking to go out and dance, and many of them packed the place this weekend have a really good time. And it's hard to argue with that, isn't it?