Nathan's Beach Bar Reopens in Miami Beach as Gay Haven | Miami New Times


Nathan's Video Bar Reopens as Nathan's Beach Club

Nathan's Beach Bar delivers a sophisticated LGBTQ bar experience.
Nathan's Beach Bar cofounders Nathan Smith (left) and Derek Gonzalez
Nathan's Beach Bar cofounders Nathan Smith (left) and Derek Gonzalez Nathan's Beach Bar photo
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When Nathan's Video Bar opened at the start of the pandemic, some would say it was a risky move.

However, there was no better time for longtime South Beach bartender and resident Nathan Smith. For the venue's cofounder and creator, it was the perfect way to give the city's LGBTQ community a safe and welcoming space.

When Smith, 46, first moved to South Beach in 1998, the local LGBTQ establishments made him feel most at home. It wasn't long before he found himself working alongside Richard Trainor at his South Beach dance club, Twist, which today stands as one of the city's longest-running gay bars.

"It was an accident that landed me in this industry," Smith tells New Times. "When I moved here, the gay bar was the first place that made me feel safe and accepted. And now that's what I want to give back to the community."

In 2020, Smith decided to make good on opening a venue he'd been conceptualizing for more than a decade, taking his 20-plus years of experience behind the South Beach bar to share his ideas with Goat Hospitality founder Derek Gonzalez.

Together, the duo teamed up to open Nathan's Video Bar. Just a short walk north from Twist, the goal was to rebuild a sense of community amidst the pandemic's imposed isolation.

Infused with Smith's kitschy vision, Nathan's Video Bar was an ode to pop culture, a theme meant to create a "home away from home" for Miami's queer community with various seating sections devoted to TV programs like Friends, the Brady Bunch, and the Real Housewives of Atlanta.

After reopening on June 1 following extensive renovations and a short stint as the Pilo's Beach Club pop-up, the rebranded Nathan's Beach Club is meant to offer guests a seriously upmarket vibe.

The redesigned venue is sophisticated and unlike any LGBTQ venue in the area, explains Gonzalez, who is also the face behind brands like Pilo's Street Tacos and has long had a mission of making welcoming spaces within the hospitality sector.

"From the furniture to the fixtures to the nightclub-worthy sound system, our goal was to make this the sort of full-blown, top-shelf nightlife experience as you'd expect from a place like LIV or Mynt Lounge," says Gonzalez. "We really wanted to give the community the type of experience they deserve — and should have."

"It's clean. It's classy. It's elegant," explains Smith. "Miami needed it, and with everything going on politically these days, we need someplace like Nathan's more than ever. We need a safe place to be ourselves, feel accepted, and — more importantly — acknowledged. And now Miami has a place like that where it didn't have one before."

Smith and Gonzalez say their shared vision is part of Nathan's ongoing success.

While Pilo's offers an inclusive employment program to bridge the disability employment gap, Nathan's is equally committed to providing the same opportunities to those in the LGBTQ community and hospitality industry.

Smith says, "I always envisioned Nathan's being more than just a bar. Two years in, I asked, 'What about expanding into another market and creating a lounge that really challenges the outdated way people look at LGBTQ spaces?' I wanted to come up with something new, refreshing, and elevated."

For Gonzalez, Nathan's Beach Bar also celebrates its founder — the same person giving the South Beach venue its "heartbeat."

That means fans of Nathan's will find familiar programming created by Nathan himself, including Smith's popular "Pop" Monday, an evening dedicated to locals and longtime regulars with discounted drinks from open to close. Other popular weekday events include Tuesday night karaoke and "Latin Night" every Thursday.

However, the best new addition just might be Nathan's private speakeasy. Located in a clandestine space within the venue, Nathan's Champagne Room offers guests an even more intimate and elevated lounge accessible by a hidden door, open Thursday through Sunday.

"We pride ourselves on partnerships that align with our brands and our vision," sums up Gonzalez. "I trust this collaboration to be great when it comes to giving back to our communities and providing opportunities in the hospitality industry."

Nathan's Beach Club. 1216 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; Daily 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.
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