BY SUZY BUCKLEY | September 1, 2009 | Lifestyle
FROM LEFT: Karim Masri, Francis Milon, Nicola Siervo, Eric Milon and Roman Jones, the powerhouse partners behind Wall, photographed at the nightclub
South Beach’s most successful after-dark businesses are as cutthroat as they are cutting edge. In 1992, Nicola Siervo’s weekends at Bang went head to head with those of Eric and Francis Milon at The Strand. Twelve years ago, the Milons were doing their best to lure the crème de la crème to their new Saturday night party at Living Room, while Siervo was busy corralling them into his Saturday bash at Bar None, co-owned by Oliver Stone and Sylvester Stallone. Soon Siervo and his partners Ingrid Casares and Chris Paciello were slammed with their hit Italian eatery Joia while the Milons were opening Cafe Tabac just a few blocks away. And so it went. Siervo partnered in legendary Mynt as the Milons, along with partner Roman Jones, were commanding crowds at Opium Garden and, later, intimate VIP lounge Privé. By 2007, the Milons’ and Jones’ Set had debuted hot on the heels of Mokaï, owned by Siervo and Karim Masri.
For more than 15 years, these sought-after restaurateurs, nightlife promoters and proprietors had been battling it out for the bulk of Miami’s boldfacers (i.e., the rich, beautiful or creative—ideally all three), luring them to their respective A-list venues with promises of the new, the fresh and—above all else—exclusivity. But in 2007, as New York real estate developer David Edelstein was building out his highly anticipated W South Beach hotel, he had a vision to unite rival club kingpins and create the quintessential, glittery South Beach lounge that would close the book on all glittery nightspots to come. If he could wrangle Siervo and Masri (partners in KNR) and the Milon brothers and Jones of The Opium Group into working together, he knew he’d have a hit on his hands. These guys are untouchable—a real dream team of talent if ever there was one.
“Yes, we’re all working together,” laughs Nicola, as if he himself can hardly believe it. He has known the Milon brothers since 1992. “We’ve been dreaming about this partnership for years, and it finally happened in 2009.” Two years prior, as Eric and Roman were leaving their pitch meeting with Edelstein at the Setai—proposed renderings in hand—they passed Nicola and Karim walking in. Eric told them, “Listen, there’s a possibility we could all work together.” They all agreed it would be interesting, and when Eric saw Nicola at Privé a few nights later, they decided to take the plunge.
The result is Wall, the intimate, glamorous, 3,500-square-foot lounge within the W South Beach—a stunning 408-unit condo-hotel tower that will also be home to Mr. Chow restaurant and Bliss spa. Fusing their French (the Milons), Italian (Siervo), British (Jones) and Lebanese (Masri) sensibilities, the partners have produced what Roman calls “hopefully a rebirth of Miami cool,” and Nicola says could be “a return to the Delano days.”
Above all else, Eric sees Wall as a right-place, right-time concept. “It’s really by order of appearances. The last one on the block gets all the attention,” he says. “I don’t think there is any [viable club] happening after ours—for some time, anyway.” The name seemed apt as well: Pithy words and phrases are a W brand signature (“Wheels” denotes valet; “Wet,” the pool; and “Whatever/Whenever,” the concierge), plus the notion of “walls” seems to be everywhere these days. As Nicola points out: “Thanks to Facebook, it’s a word everybody has in their lives right now.” And unlike so many nightspots, which place more of an emphasis on furniture and lighting, Wall’s walls themselves are one of the top focal points of the room.
At the entrance, Studio B Design’s Anna Busta adorned the walls with black-lacquered diamond-shaped panels with slivers of color-shifting LED lights shining through. In the main room, she blanked the walls with a series of tiled diamonds—a mix of mirrored, dark-mirrored, black-lacquered and gold-shaded. Each individual diamond combines to create a large diamond pattern, setting off a centerpiece vintage gold sofa inspired by Le Corbusier and a dramatic ceiling made of fine copper mesh. “There’s nothing ‘nice’ about it,” Roman insists. “It’s sexy and hot but kind of chic and elegant at the same time. It looks like Saddam Hussein’s private nightclub. It’s classy opulence—very rich and gaudy.”
Wall—open just Friday and Saturday nights for now—has a small, 300-person capacity, reminiscent of the VIP area Le Carré at the Byblos’ Le Cave du Roi in Saint-Tropez. “It’s where everybody wants to be, where every table is somebody,” Eric says. To round out the W South Beach nightlife experience, both groups run the Wet pool bar and The Grove, a South-of-France-inspired lush outdoor garden lounge designed by landscape architect Paula Hayes. Siervo and Masri run Mediterranean restaurant Solea and Living Room, the cozy lobby side bar awash in lots of marble and brass, bedecked with tall, velvet curtains, white alpaca Mongolian fur chairs and white pony rugs splashed with gold paint.
KNR and The Opium Group have orchestrated South Beach’s latest one-stop-shopping, after-dark mecca—something we really haven’t seen since the Shore Club’s Nobu, Skybar and Red Room trifecta monopolized nights in the early ’00s. But will it lead to cannibalism of the groups’ other hotspots, especially in an economy where partygoers are picking and choosing like never before? “Whether it’s us or somebody else who opens a place, people will always want the new and trendy,” Roman explains. “It’s a new era,” adds Eric. “This business is working and our other businesses are working. Sure, maybe people aren’t buying a new apartment, car, boat, yacht or plane, but they can still buy themselves a bottle of Champagne. And that’s all we care about, you know?”
photohraph by mateo garcia