Miami Nightlife: Intimate Lounges
by henry quintero
There are people who make Miami magical. Debbie Ohanian is one of them. It is no surprise she is ahead of the trend, hosting hush-hush soirées at Private Residence, her new lounge above Barton G. The Restaurant. Debbie bought the historic 1923 property for peanuts in 1993, then she renovated and opened it as Starfish, a stellar spot that boasted the best salsa parties this side of Havana. The second-floor salon boasts a breezy outdoor terrace and faux-leopard-fur walls, with dominos dancing across the DJ booth completing the kitschy ’50s effect.
Concealed inside the recently renovated landmark hotel The Betsy at the north end of Ocean Drive is a basement bar—run by art-meets-nightlife maven Michelle Leshem—known to a select group of locals as B Bar at The Betsy. A 100-person venue only accessible to invited guests, B Bar is one of South Beach’s buried treasures. A thick black reflective French vinyl stretched across the low ceiling combines with acid-washed mirrored walls to trick the eye, transforming what was once the hotel’s tiny storage space into a dark, expansive jewel box perfect for illicit affairs and whispered conversations.
And speaking of conversations, nothing breaks the ice like a bar named The Electric Pickle Co., the latest incarnation of the old Circa 28 space. Barbara Basti, a force behind Miami’s music subculture, brings her popular party Poplife to the Pickle every Saturday night, offering revelers an antidote to the monotony that plagues Miami’s downtown club scene. Also check out Basti’s Wednesdaynight affair at LIV, Dirty Hairy, for a step beyond the mundane.
Upcoming ones to watch are Dave Grutman’s Rabbit’s Foot, a cozy 200-person lounge opening in March in Miami Beach, and Sebastian Puga’s Coco de Ville, an intimate lounge adjacent to STK at Gansevoort South.
Left to right, Dave Grutman (LIV), Michael Capponi (Mondrian), Michelle Leshem (B Bar at The Betsy), Erika Freshman (Bardot), Debbie Ohanian (Private Residence) and Sebastian Puga (Coco de Ville). Photographed at Private Residence, one of the newest small South Beach lounges.
photograph by Navid; produced by jose ortiz
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