Sobe’s Ugly Truth

(Originally published on MOLI 4/23/8)

It’s no secret that the South Beach nightlife scene long ago ceased to be a playground for the kind of off-kilter, bohemian individuals who make nightclubbing a blast. In fact, it’s more like a cesspool of overpriced clubs playing bad trance and full of narcissistic, superficial airheads who get by on looks and/or money rather than talent or brains.

The way in which SoBe clubs have become killing grounds for tourists and suckers was made abundantly clear in a Sunday story in The Miami Herald (full disclosure: I am a former Herald staff critic and still contribute to the paper and its associated websites). Reporter Lydia Martin details the costs and cachet of buying into bottle service, and thus VIP treatment, at the clubs. She talks to such partiers as Romy Grantley, a 39-year-old financial trader who says he spends $3000 every Friday at Set. Martin is a genius at getting people to say things that lay bare the weird culture of Miami; a couple years ago she quoted literary entrepreneur Mitchell Kaplan saying, “We have the image that everybody here has fake boobs. Well, some people with fake boobs are very intellectual.”

The winner in this story comes from party promoter Tommy Pooch: ”If we made you buy four bottles, and you’re only four people, you can bet we didn’t want you there. You’re probably ugly. We were hoping you would just leave. But you were so desperate to get in, you agreed to the four bottles, and now we’re stuck with you.”

This, of course, explains why South Beach clubs are full of ugly rich people and desperate model wannabes who are essentially, and often literally, paid to be there. I suppose if you’re one of those types, they’re a great place to hang. But
Word to the people like Grantley, who brag about buying their popularity each weekend: That kind of club scene is over. You can see T-shirts in South Beach with the letters VIP circled with a slash through them. There are club nights, even at such once star-obsessed Beach venues as Tantra, that brag that they are celebrity-free. Economic times have changed, people hate Republicans, and little democratic dive venues are where it’s at.

The infamous SoBe scene is not only over; it’s dangerous. Martin’s article was prompted by a recent episode at behemoth venue Mansion where clubgoers were allegedly beaten by bouncers after they protested the size of their bar tab. Mansion officials deny the allegations but the patrons have sued and eight bouncers have been arrested for battery. You can see a video of the incident here.

Meanwhile, the kind of DIY fashionistas, art-school kids, trannies, budding MCs, etc., at the heart of any city’s cool club scene – not to mention most of the rest of Miami — long ago decided to stay on the west side of the causeways. In neighborhoods like Wynwood, Lemon City, Downtown, and the Design District, there’s a vibrant mix of singer/songwriters, indie clubs, cool record stores, world-renowned galleries, and hip restaurants. Places like Sweat Records, Churchill’s, 190, Transit Lounge, etc., don’t pull that velvet-rope stuff. Pay your admission (if there is one, it’s probably dirt cheap), and enjoy some good local music. Ugly people welcome.

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