Dear Nightclubs, It's You Not Me
MIAMI-- My relationship with nightclubs began when I was nineteen years old. Like many toxic relationships, it was playful in the beginning but soured over the years, and in the end, I was left with empty memories and emptier pockets. Blinded by the luxury and lifestyle it offered, I was okay with many things that wouldn’t fly today. Whether it was waiting in line for an hour and a half to get inside the club because I wasn’t boys with the general manager, or paying $18 for a watered down vodka n’ soda from a bartender that acted like she was doing me a favor. I was tired of my nights going to waste like the broken paper wristbands and promises that fill the streets outside the club.
I remember the last time I went to a club. It was four years ago and a few of my friends and I were visiting Miami for one of our last boys trips. At the time, Mansion was in its heyday, so that’s where we wanted to go. We were young, single, and probably a little financially irresponsible. Dropping $300 on an evening was nothing to us. We walked up to the head of the line, spoke with the doorman then slipped him a hundred. We were feeling pretty good about our situation. He told us to give him a minute while he was working on getting his friends in first. Forty minutes and a hundred “friends” later, he kindly held up his side of the transaction and waved us over to let us in. When we went inside, we went directly to the bar, only to be faced with another challenge: getting the bartender’s attention. By the time we had our drinks and were settled, it was two in the morning and our night was slipping away. We were at the hottest club in Miami, and we were miserable. We knew this chapter in our lives was over.
Today, I am a proud Miamian, but I don’t associate this city with clubs anymore. It turns out I’m not alone. Since 2015, several of the nightclub staples have closed, including Mansion, Mekka, and Grand Central, while many more are in trouble. For years they chose to ignore the changing ways of their target audience’s interests and persuasion to disrupt industries. Say what you want about millennials, but when they feel they’re being treated unfairly they will find ways to shift the balance of power. All nightclubs had to do was see how Uber has made taxis seem prehistoric, or how AirBnB has made staying at a destination hotel seem boring. Even Netflix has made paying for cable seem silly. It seems ironic that all those nightclubs that made it difficult for people to come in are now closing their own doors. Many people like myself are craving less glitz for a more intimate experience, where we can have conversations while enjoying live music. Instead of luxurious, warehouse sized clubs, it’s hole in the wall bars like Churchill’s, a legendary watering hole that has been pulling in famous artists, ranging from jazz to reggae to indie rock, for over thirty-five years. Located in the Little Haiti neighborhood, this grunge dive bar has continued to bring in crowds, despite changing ownership a few years ago. On most nights you will find groups of quirky millennials that are there to get an authentic experience, which, I have seen first hand. My first time I had to sidestep a mosh-pit that had broke out of nowhere, and the next time, I was singing Redemption Song with strangers during a Bob Marley & Peter Tosh cover band’s performance.
If smokey indoor bars are not your type, but you still want the connection that live music provides, check out Wood Tavern in Wynwood. This hip, low maintenance, inside-outside bar is a crowd pleaser because it has a little bit of something for everyone, including myself. I’ve been there on a school night wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt to watch an NBA game. I’ve been there dressed in jeans and a collar shirt to celebrate a friend’s birthday. No matter how I’m dressed, no matter who I know or don’t know, I am welcomed. Imagine that, a business that follows a much simpler model; when you arrive, you go inside. The best part is when you do arrive there’s no more giving cash to the bouncer. The only thing you need to show, is your ID-- they like it when you’re being yourself.