Few nightclubs can claim to inhabit a building as old as the historic Miami-Dade County Courthouse. But the Meyer-Kiser Building (AKA the Dade Commonwealth Building) has been standing in Downtown Miami since 1925, first as a 17-story structure, later salvaged as a seven-story building when a 1926 hurricane toppled the top ten floors.
For decades, the building served as a bank until urban blight hit the area and it fell into disrepair. According to a 2004 South Florida Business Journal article, the building "housed the state's first elevator and a 300-plus square foot vault, once regarded as the largest in the state."
Now, though, the Dade Commonwealth Building is home to a new nightclub called The Bank.
But usually, that's not enough to save a building in Miami, a city with too little regard for its historic past. Many culturally important structures met their demise during the great building boom at the turn of this century (see the Everglades Hotel). So it's fitting that the man who saved the Dade Commonwealth Building is a New York City native.
"When I first saw the building it was falling apart," owner Jay Suarez tells us over the phone. "It had rusted rebar coming out of the chest of the eagles. It affected me to see such a beautiful landmark withering away."
Suarez admits the rehabilitation of the building was a labor of love with an estimated $5 million being poured into restoring the structure to its former glory and little income being produced from the tenants that occupy the upstairs offices.
In a way, The Bank was a product of necessity, says Saurez. "No one was renting and I have this building that is beautiful. So one my tenants is [Custom Music Solutions], a promotional company for nightclubs, and I got together with them. I offered the space and it took us about 14 months to create it."
But why start a difficult business like a nightclub? "I think we are doing it at the right time," he says. "Downtown Miami has an explosion of condominiums and there is really no form of entertainment for the area."
Saurez insists he plans to preserve a lot of The Bank's original historic features, adding to its majestic feeling. The club is subdivided into four distinct areas: Gallery 139, a bright gallery space before the actual entrance to the nightclub; the Vault, which is arguably its VIP lounge; the Capone Room, an upstairs lounge; and the Lotus Garden, an outdoor area.
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The gorgeous space is meant to attract the kind of people Saurez imagines would like to call The Bank their favorite nightspot and aren't really part of the 24/7 ragers you might find on NE 11th Street.
"We cater to [professionals] who want to go out and unwind a little bit."
Grand Opening Celebration with DJ Damaged Goods. Thursday, November 10. The Bank, 139 NE First St., Miami. Doors open at 11 p.m. Free Ketel One until midnight. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. Call 305-373-1515 or visit thebankmiami.com.