The Chicago mobster Al "Scarface" Capone's likely enduring Miami legacy was dying in Miami Beach in 1947. But local lore has it that he left behind a room beneath the nation's second-oldest Walgreens in downtown Miami that played a crucial role in his bootlegging operations during Prohibition.
Whether true or fantastical, what is fact is that new owners have acquired the space.
Elad Zvi and Gabe Orta, founders of Bar Lab, a consulting and hospitality company best known for the Broken Shaker, partnered with Club Space's owners David Sinopoli, Coloma Kaboomsky, and Davide Danese four years ago to open Jolene, an underground disco between Flagler Street and Second Avenue.
"One reason we were connected to downtown Miami was that Bar Lab opened a Broken Shaker in Los Angeles about six years ago," Zvi tells New Times. "We thought, How come Miami doesn't have a downtown like LA? Downtown Miami is very similar — it's very art deco. We got closer with the Space people, and we went with nightlife, a concept we thought we would never do. But it's a great energy with Space, and we're learning from each other every day."
If your cousin from Brooklyn has been posting about a similarly named sound room in the New York City borough, that's because the group opened that Jolene, too. Now the listening experience is coming to Miami proper. Jolene's southern outpost opens Friday, May 19.
The spot had a soft-opening two weekends ago with the Mexican producer Rebolledo on a Friday night, followed by the legendary John "Jellybean" Benitez on Saturday.
To get into Jolene, you walk downstairs to something Northerners call a "basement."
"For us as audiophiles, the ability to go below sea level and build a sound box was exciting," Sinopoli says.
"I love the reference of a sound box," Zvi adds. "The sound system is amazing, but one of the most important things is that the room is [acoustically] treated. We put it all together, including installation in the walls."
Upon entering the space, the first thing you'll notice is impeccable sound from the speakers carefully placed throughout. The second thing to catch your attention are the ceiling lights, courtesy of designer Danya Hachey of MaD Artistic. They can quickly transform the room from a dark space into a scene straight out of Saturday Night Fever. Then there's the enormity of the space, where you're welcome close to the DJ or take a breather on the surrounding seating.
"You can rely on the cocktails," Sinopoli adds. "You can also rely on the place never being too packed. We will be very, very strict on never being uncomfortable, and you can rely on a fun dynamic for house heads, hip-hop fans, or people who don't know music. It will be easily accessible."
From the floor to the walls, every element was fitted to absorb or disperse sound. "Everything is there to capture sound," Sinopoli explains. "There is a clear level between the lows, mids, and highs."
Ultimately, Jolene is positioned as the perfect middle ground for the city's nightlife scene. It's not the kind of place you'd take your parents for a post-graduation bash, but don't expect to roll up at 4 a.m. and be ready to rage, either. It's a place that can transform into an early-evening cocktail bar and then into a full-on nightclub closer to midnight.
"Back when I was working Bardot, caught a lot of my friends leaving dinner and needing a nightcap while others came before heading out to Space or Trade," Sinopoli recalls. "That was cool. People used it as a function for going out where it didn't have to be the ultimate plan."
Jolene also attempts to revive the focus on dancing and less on who's DJing.
"Some of the crazy synchronicity that happened in the design of this room was that Bar Lab guided the design — one of it being the DJ booth," says Sinopoli, who credits Despacio, the music project spearheaded by James Murphy and David and Stephen Dewaele, as inspiration for Jolene's setup. "It's not a linear watching of DJs. The concentration of Despacio being circular and right on the floor is not to make the DJ so overpowering or idolized. Jolene has that same low-level vibe."
In addition to music, Zvi adds there will be at least nine special cocktails and signature glasses created with help from award-winning bartender Christina Wiseman.
This isn't the first collaborative partnership between Space and Bar Lab. The teams first collaborated on the former Space Park three years ago. "We have respect for their hustle," says Sinopoli of Bar Lab.
Jolene's opening comes at a time when downtown Miami is undergoing a major transformation.
"We want to be part of the neighborhood and new residential," Sinopoli says. "We just want it to be enjoyable for everyone."
Jolene Sound Room. 200 E. Flagler St., Miami; jolenesoundroom.com.