When Gov. Ron DeSantis moved forward with Phase 3 of his reopening plan for Florida, he gave bars and nightclubs the green light. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Giménez has added some restrictions at the local level: an 11 p.m. curfew, mandatory facemasks, and capacity limits.
Some local venues opened cautiously last week — mostly because they didn't have much choice.
With barely any government assistance offered to bars, nightclubs, and music venues, businesses have been compelled to weigh the health of customers and employees against the prospect of going under.
Club Space has more to lose than most local venues. The 11th Street behemoth operates with a higher overhead than your average bar. At the beginning of the shutdown, Space turned to livestreaming to stay engaged with its patrons — but streaming has proven notoriously hard to monetize and could never approach the revenue generated by 1,200 partygoers bellying up to the bar.
So it comes as no surprise that Club Space announced today that it will reopen this weekend — albeit with strict rules in place to ensure health and safety.
Space will be the first large-scale venue in Miami to reopen since the shutdown.
Partner David Sinopoli tells New Times that prior to DeSantis' announcement, the club had considered reopening as a restaurant-style venue.
"In the middle of August, we sent [the city] a social-distance plan that uses about 300 people in the club — about 30 tables, all six feet apart, reservation only, no door, no bar service," Sinopoli recounts. "We would open up at four o'clock on Saturday and then again at 6 a.m. on Sunday and go to curfew — sunrise to sunset."
City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez seemed amenable, according to Sinopoli, especially since Space had installed smoke extractors prior to the shutdown that periodically pull air from inside the venue and pump in fresh air.
But DeSantis' bombshell put those plans on pause while management at Space tried to figure out what the new rules meant. Under the new guidelines, the venue could technically opt for a larger capacity, but Sinopoli says he feels safer capping it at 25 percent of the venue's maximum occupancy of 1,200.
To enforce social distancing, there will be no dance floor. Instead, Space will feel more like a dayclub in which tables are set up throughout the terrace and loft spaces, with servers circulating.
"We are trying our best to do something that will feel natural," partner Coloma Kaboomsky explains. "We are adding a ton of different plants to the terrace of all sorts — it will feel like 'Jurassic Terrace,' almost. We are also activating the loft. So the terrace will be a Jurassic jungle meets hippie market, and the loft, since it's darker and has industrial vibes already, we are going to do something psychedelic there."
For Kaboomsky, the greatest challenge has been filling in the negative space created by social distancing. Empty space can suck the euphoria out of a venue in no time. Kaboomsky hopes filling that space with décor and natural barriers will preserve the energy despite the low occupancy.
Kaboomsky says he has looked at how venues around the world have adapted to the pandemic but cautions that those adaptations don't always translate to American venues, owing to cultural differences.
"Some cultures don't really tolerate when members of their society break a rule, so sometimes it's easier to do things in those cultures," he says. "In Europe, you've seen these parties where people go and wear masks and stand in their own circle."
Americans' idea of "personal freedom" might prove Space's biggest obstacle, but Kaboomsky and Sinopoli say the rules will be made explicitly clear to patrons before they enter the venue.
"It's Club Space experience, but, in a way, it's restaurant-style," Kaboomsky elaborates. "The first hurdle we have to cover is the actual social-distancing. Then we have to work out how we guarantee people are healthy and wearing their masks from the door of the club until they arrive at their reserved zone. Once they arrive at their zone, they can remove their mask, but if they want to leave to go to the bathroom or exit, they need to put their mask back on. So there are a lot of things we need to enforce there."
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Other rules include temperature screening upon arrival and holding pens to separate groups as they're being attended to at check-in. Staff will also be tested twice a week — on Mondays and Fridays — to ensure they're healthy.
Partygoers aren't the only ones itching to get back inside Space — DJs are also ready to get behind the decks once more. Kicking things off this weekend will be the Martinez Brothers.
"A lot of our main talent has been [itching] to play at Space again," Sinopoli says. "Maceo Plex is playing the next weekend and Claptone the weekend after that."
Club Space. 34 NE 11th St., Miami; 786-357-6456; clubspace.com. Saturday 4 to 11 p.m. and Sunday 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Reservations only.