Tucked away beside I-95, Sidebar promises to be a haven for those who think nightlife hoods like Wynwood and downtown have seen better days.
But Brickell? Yes, places like Kukaramakara, Fifty, and Blue Martini already exist in the area, but they tend to serve the occasional weekend warrior who needs to blow off some steam after a long work week.
Sidebar is more akin to nearby joints like Blackbird Ordinary and the now-defunct (temporarily?) Tobacco Road, in that this is more of a neighborhood watering hole meets music venue. And walking through the space, it has an aesthetic that you see more often in neighborhoods like Wynwood and Park West. (One that you might see popping up more often around western Brickell and eastern Little Havana as creatives flee looking for cheaper rent.)
See also: Sidebar Opening in Former PAX Space
There's also the venue's pedigree. The folks behind the concept are Jason Odio, Raul Sanchez, and Nick Katz. Odio's background includes working for the Opium Group and co-founding III Points (which, after the first year, he's no longer involved with) while Sanchez handles the city's premier hip-hop night, Peachfuzz at The Garret, and formerly ran 14th Street hotspot Bar.
"As I've gotten older, I've yearned for more substance, outside of confetti and fist-pumping. That's what the beach ultimately became," says Odio of his time working on South Beach. "It was great for me and it opened a lot of doors for me."
Eventually, Odio says, he crossed the causeway to start putting on a monthly music series with Bardot's music director David Sinopoli. The night was called Oh Really!? and it eventually morphed into III Points. But this jump to the mainland was also driven by a desire to show people, especially tourists, that there's life beyond the beach.
"It's a pet peeve of mine, because when people say they go to Miami, nine times out of ten, they go to First Street and Collins, to the Fontainebleau, and they think they saw Miami. There are so many new amazing neighborhoods that it kind of sucks people don't explore more."
See also: Miami's Top Ten Hipster Bars
Still, Odio's knowledge of the South Beach scene and Sanchez' knack for throwing the kinds of parties that appeal to mainland scenesters can only help Sidebar. This could be that place where grimy punks rub elbows with Brickell bankers.
"We are tying to bring the best of all worlds," says Sanchez. "Ultimately, with everything I've done -- be it Peachfuzz or Bar -- the most important thing has been the music. Good music will bring everyone together."
Expect a mixture of live music and DJ sets. In fact, as we were walking around the venue, local musician Austin Paul was doing a soundcheck for last night's soft opening. The acoustics are also pretty good, considering the cavernous space.
And because Sidebar is such a large club, there are sprawling seating areas spread throughout the place, giving it a sort of South Beach ultra-lounge vibe. However, bottle service probably won't be the norm. And for the most part, you'll be free to sit anywhere you like without the threat of having to move because someone bought a table.
Though we also experience occasional pangs of nostalgia for that old 14th Street haven, if you come expecting Bar redux, you are going to be disappointed.
"First of all, it's way bigger," Sanchez says. "But it's all about the attitude. It wasn't Bar because of the location. It was the people who worked there, the people who ran it, and the people who went there. So I don't see it as a drawback not being Bar. It's a different location but it will have the same vibe."
By the way, before the venue was PAX, it served as a storage depot for the Miami Herald. Sidebar has chosen to honor its past by wallpapering the hallway that leads to the bathrooms with old front pages.
And the history of the area definitely has Odio excited, who says being born and raised in Miami makes him feel a special connection to Calle Ocho.
"Being able to have something on a historic street is pretty cool, versus having something on South Beach. How can you beat that?"
Drink prices will be pretty standard at $8 for well drinks and go up from there depending on your premium tastes.
You can also pretty much expect an open-door policy, with none of that velvet-rope, dress-code hassle. Not surprising, considering that attitude is what Sanchez has built his nightlife career on.
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"At the end of the day, we all go out to have a good time," says Sanchez.
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Sidebar Grand Opening. With DJs Reid Waters and Pase Rock. Sidebar, 337 SW Eighth St., Miami. Doors at 7 p.m.; 21 and over. Call 786-703-6973, or visit facebook.com/sidebarmiami.