World Red Eye’s Panel Sees Miami Nightlife Veterans Taking New Risks

Last night, World Red Eye held its first in a series of panels at the Pérez Art Museum Miami. The topic of the night: The influence of nightlife on the modern renaissance of Miami.

Moderated by Miami filmmaker Alfred Spellman, the panel consisted of Magic City nightlife veterans with somewhere around a century worth of combined industry experience: Chris Paciello, David Grutman, Eric Milon, Navin Chatani, and Nicola Siervo. 

“That Brickell area right now, it’s busy seven days a week. I really think it’s the next place.”

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“These guys represent the past, present, and the future of Miami nightlife," World Red Eye founder Seth Browarnik said in his introduction. Browarnik himself, who's run for five years, has been around Miami nightlife for most of his own life. "It taught me responsibility and how to be a man,” he said before passing the microphone off to Spellman.

“You can go anywhere in the world and mention Miami to somebody and the first two things that people bring up are the beaches and the nightlife," Spellman told the crowd. "Maybe the real estate. And possibly drugs. But nightlife is right up there.” After a brief slideshow to add some historical context to the panel, Spellman brought out the night's guests one by one.

Then came the discussion, lasting about an hour and tackling topics ranging from the rise of the nightclub DJ to the effects social media has on a club's clientele. Were there any grand revelations? Did these five men crack the code and spell out the formula for success like a crazy professor scribbling an equation on a chalkboard?

Not exactly. But that's kind of the point. While there were some interesting revelations about the inner-workings of the modern industry, most of the night's discussion focused on the past — how things used to be. When the panel speculated towards the future of their own industry, the conversation grew vague. “If you make the experience special — if you make the experience unique, they will come,” Nicola Siervo, the man behind Wall and a slew of past Miami successes, said about running a successful club these days.

But it was clear that even these five men, all successful and experienced beyond many of their peers, didn't have all the answers. And that was the night's biggest takeaway. Nightlife is a hard industry. And more often than not, you have to take a chance and get lucky.

That's what Eric Milon did when he opened Wynwood's Coyo Taco, a spot that combined good food with an intimate speakeasy venue in its back room. Coyo has quickly become one of Wynwood's most popular hotspots thanks to a steady stream of really great DJ bookings.

And it's what two more of the panelists are about to do themselves. David Grutman, arguably the most successful dude in the room that night, is about to launch a new creation, Komodo. It'll be a three level, 275-seat restaurant in Brickell. “A lot of our fans come from the Brickell area,"Grutman said. "So now I'm coming to them. I can’t do a little restaurant in a shopping plaza. I think at this point, with the team that we have, we want to do bigger and better things.”

Grutman isn't the only one looking towards Brickell. The Miami neighborhood populated with young UM students and employees of Miami's financial district is proving appetizing for many new nightlife ventures. El Tucán, a throwback-style lounge, recently opened its doors in the neighborhood. So did Blume, a new nightclub.

“That Brickell area right now, it’s busy seven days a week. I really think it’s the next place,” Grutman said.

But that doesn't mean the Beach is going anywhere either. Chris Paciello will soon open up a new club, Rockwell, on Seventh and Washington Ave. Paciello has a long history in Miami nightlife, but not without controversy. He did six years in jail for his involvement in the felony-murder of a Staten Island housewife. He was released in 2006. This, unsurprisingly, didn't come up in the panel.

But Rockewell will be Paciello's biggest venture since getting out of prison. "I like Washington," Paciello said when Spellman asked why he was returning to an area of Miami Beach that hasn't seen a whole lot of success in recent years. "I've been successful on Washington Avenue two times now. And I’m looking forward to the opportunity."

There was a beat before David Grutman leaned forward into his microphone. "I'm not."
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Ryan Pfeffer is a contributor and former Miami New Times music editor. After earning a BS from Florida State University, Ryan joined the New Times staff in November 2013 as a web editor.
Contact: Ryan Pfeffer