Building a Better Nightclub

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Complicating matters was the fact that Nocturnal's staff had begun making arrangements to open by the end of October. When it became clear that wouldn't happen, a few announced performances were canceled. One show in particular, with DJ Craze and Felix da Housecat, had been booked three months in advance. "It was too late to cancel without screwing over the DJ and his agent," Sokoloff explained. Luckily, he managed to work out a last-minute production deal with the Opium Group for the two stars to perform at Opium Garden.

Jones compared the seemingly never-ending Nocturnal project to his old nightclub, Rain, which also took years to build. "They basically tore down everything but the front wall and started brand new -- and that's 12,000 square feet in a [one-story building]. It took them about two years from about the start of the project to the day they opened," he said. Then he added, laughing, "At the same time, they built the Empire State Building in thirteen months."

If location means everything, Nocturnal's residence in the growing Park West neighborhood may prove to be a problem. Can the Eleventh Street block sustain yet another superclub?

To Nocturnal's immediate left at 34 NE Eleventh St. is Space; until recently, another dance club at 90 NE Eleventh St., Club Envy, sat on its right. Meanwhile other neighborhood competition includes Players, the 30 NE Eleventh St. sports bar that has recently begun hosting music events, too; and a strip joint at 29 NE Eleventh St., Gold Rush Miami.

Nocturnal's main competition, however, will be Space. An internationally recognized emporium for progressive house and trance fans, Space overshadowed the struggling Club Envy until the latter announced it was closing its doors. Nocturnal probably can't compete with Space, either, so it will have to present a viable alternative.

Sokoloff predicted that Nocturnal will not only be a place to dance, but a technological and aesthetic experience that will dazzle everyone, from people looking for a good time to discerning music aficionados. "What we don't want to do is compete with Space musically," said Sokoloff.

In contrast to Space, which caters to "true" electronic music fans who want to see the most popular DJs in the world (Tisto, Paul Van Dyk, Deep Dish), Sokoloff said that Nocturnal will feature lesser-known but critically acclaimed artists, such as Armand Van Helden and Felix da Housecat. Its residents include techno maven DJ Strike, house DJ Edgar V, and turntables guru DJ Craze. The rooftop lounge will feature performers enlisted by deep house/soul promoters Aquabooty (Joe Budious and Tomas Ceddia).

"Our job is not only to entertain people, but to service customers," said Sokoloff. For example, when a customer purchases a bottle, the wait staff will use a Palm Pilot to automatically transmit the order to the basement; there's a kiosk that can shuttle bottles from the basement to any of the three floors. "The bus boy and the bar back don't have to go any further than that to get anything you need," said Sokoloff. "It'll cut that 30- to 40-minute time down to five minutes, six minutes."

But even great service won't guarantee patrons will continue to show up once the novelty of partying in a new place wears off. For now, the strategy is to offer a bit of everything: music, food, bay views, multimedia shows, even concerts. Celebrities might even host theme nights, Sokoloff said, and the club is trying to attract corporate events.

All these elements will be necessary to survive in a neighborhood that, with the exception of Space, has yet to take off. "There will be production every weekend, freak shows -- whatever it takes to entertain people, to make people feel like they got their money's worth," said Sokoloff. "If this street is going to survive and we're all going to do well, we have to do something different."

Nocturnal is scheduled to open for an invitation-only "soft opening" on Friday, March 19. The following week it will host a series of parties during the annual Winter Music Conference, including Circus Miami 05, headlined by platinum-certified big-beat producer Fat Boy Slim and house music icon Frankie Knuckles. After conference, the management team will shutter its doors for a few weeks to assess progress. The official grand opening party is tentatively scheduled for the weekend of April 21.

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Mosi Reeves
Contact: Mosi Reeves