Ora Hopes to Become South Beach's VIP Oasis in a Sea of Megaclubs

Face it — you're not 22 anymore. However, you aren't looking to give up your party-hard attitude just yet. You just wish there were a place where you could imbibe and dance without having to be surrounded by a bunch of weekend warriors.

That's where Ora hopes to come in.

Taking over the former Adore space at the Boulan South Beach, Ora (2000 Collin Ave., Miami Beach) is positioning itself as a place where VIPs and locals can escape the chaos of Miami clubs but still enjoy thumping music and great cocktails.

"What made Miami nightlife was that true VIP, exclusive type of nightlife," Ora co-owner Ryan Van Milligen says. "We wanted to go back to what made Miami nightlife amazing in the past but modernize it for today."

If anybody knows what makes Miami nightlife tick, it's Van Milligen, an Opium Group veteran of eight years who has his hands in clubs such as Rokbar, Mynt, Bâoli, Privé, Louis, and others. Two years ago, he left Opium to work with partners Dana Dwyer, Yani Kontos, and Greg See on the project that would become Ora. If you're unfamiliar with See, he's also a nightlife veteran who was involved with Mynt and eventually worked with SBE on projects such as Hyde Beach and SLS South Beach.
So it seemed fortuitous that in 2014, after only four months of operation, Adore shut down. It perhaps set a record for fastest nightclub closing, but many saw Las Vegas nightlife impresario Cy Waits' entrance into the Miami market as doomed to fail from the beginning — a classic case of an outsider thinking he knows what Miami clubgoers want. (See also short-lived club Steam.)

Ora already has a leg up thanks to its four partners. They've transformed the 10,000-square-foot space that housed Adore's gaudy Vegas decor into a two-room, colorful party playground. It includes a main dance floor that feels intimate yet, thanks to its 23-foot clearance, feels larger than it actually is. Looking to escape mayhem in the main area? The appropriately named Anti-Social Room, located in the upstairs area, offers a more chilled-out space where you can grab a well-crafted cocktail and carry on a conversation even though music fills the room.

"Everybody doesn't want to be in an environment around 2,000 people getting pushed around."

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"It's almost like a New York/London speakeasy," Van Milligen adds. "It's a lot warmer — dark woods — a more intimate space than what you would get in a normal club."

However, if your eyes are starting to glaze over thinking this is just another megaclub in Miami Beach, Van Milligen insists Ora will be different.

"I think what LIV does is amazing," he says. "To me, they're a megaclub. They're more of an event-driven space, though they do it great."
At a 600-person capacity between both rooms, the club is forced to be more selective at the door, he says. This "true exclusivity," as Van Milligen calls it, means patrons will have more room to party without fear of drinks getting spilled on them and the constant push-and-shove of cutting through a packed club.

"Everybody doesn't want to be in an environment around 2,000 people getting pushed around, crowded with the $2,000 DJ or a big hip-hop act or whatever it happens to be," he adds.

That's why Ora doesn't see clubs like LIV or E11even as direct competitors. It's going to for a different clientele. Instead of booking large acts, the nightclub aims to bring back the joy to clubbing by making the experience better. That means offering impeccable service such as cocktails shaken directly at your table and making sure you never have to pour your own drink — because you've got better things to worry about, like flirting and dancing.

"We developed all these different techniques that other people haven't taken the time to do or maybe they just never thought of, that we wanted to offer to the VIP experience that you wouldn't get at a normal club," Van Milligen says.

Ora earned a steady buzz after its soft opening during Art Basel. Whether the new venue outlasts Adore, only time will tell.

Asked if he burned sage to clear the room of Adore's failure, Van Milligen says, "Any space that you go into that was a club before you, you're going to be taking a club that's closed. It's just reality. Did its doors close and was it one of the biggest failures? Of course. If I was involved in that past venture, I would be a little embarrassed."

DJ Snoopadellic, AKA Snoop Dogg
Friday, December 16, at Ora Nightclub, 2000 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-912-1010; Reservations are recommended. Entry at the doorman’s discretion. No cover.
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Jose D. Duran is the associate editor of Miami New Times. He's the strategist behind the publication's eyebrow-raising Facebook and Twitter feeds. He has also been reporting on Miami's cultural scene since 2006. He has a BS in journalism and will live in Miami as long as climate change permits.
Contact: Jose D. Duran