Washington Avenue is getting a major renovation after decades of neglect. In the 1990s, the street was home to many of the city's most popular nightspots. This South Beach club guide was originally published in The Miami Herald on May 6, 1994.
AJAXX Industrial, 841 Washington Ave., 673-3020: The things you can do with a little black metal grillwork nowadays. AJAXX Industrial is currently hot-hot-hot -- on a recent Saturday night the mob waiting to be let in was so thick it interrupted traffic on Washington Avenue. What's the big deal? Those precarious-looking but very hip catwalks that line this small dance club. If you're afraid of heights, you might want to stick to ground level -- the platforms are dizzyingly narrow in spots -- but everyone else won't be able to resist exploring the nooks and crannies upstairs. The atmosphere is strictly ice-cool tech noir, like something out of a Nine Inch Nails video. Wear black and you'll fit right in with the decor.
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Amnesia, 136 Collins Ave., 531-5535: Since its opening last February, this sprawling, open-air dazzler has generated a lot of talk. Nearby residents hate all the noise and are making some of their own to the city, but this seasonal club's huge popularity indicates it won't be quieting down anytime soon -- at least until they close down for the summer (they'll be out of action July 17-Oct. 20). Elegant Mediterranean architecture, one of the best light shows on the Beach, bleacher-type seating areas ideal for crowd-scanning, and comfortable couches and covered lounge areas on the second level for more intimate conversation. Since things are al fresco here, you won't choke on second-hand smoke and you can carry on a conversation without having to bellow -- though we'd hate to see what happens when it rains. Dress nicely but comfortably, particularly on muggy nights. On weekends, the place is overrun by fun-hungry tourist types and causeway crawlers. During the carnival-like atmosphere of the Sunday afternoon T-dances, Amnesia is representative of everything South Beach is known for.
Bash, 655 Washington Ave., 538-2274: This place sports one of the funkiest decors of any South Beach hang -- even the bathrooms are splashed in vibrant, kaleidoscopic colors -- but it's the eternally diverse crowds and the little-bit-of- everything music mix that keep it hopping. The owners include Sean Penn and Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall, and their showbiz friends like to visit often, so it's a good place for celebrity sightings. On our visit, we didn't recognize anybody but had a great time hanging out in the rear open-air patio, which has such a lilting tropical feel we would've sworn -- after a couple of drinks -- we were on some Caribbean island.
Cameo, 1445 Washington Ave., 532-0922: On South Beach, some nightclubs come and go with blazing speed (remember Hell? The Lizard Lounge? Impyrean?) and others, like the rock-steady Cameo, continue to pack them for eternity. The former moviehouse has been snazzily transformed into a multilevel dance palace complete with lots of balconies ideal for voyeurs, so many bars you can't take three steps without sidling up to one, groovy '60s-style psychedelic projections on the walls, and lots of thumping bass for the Power 96 crowd. The Cameo's ever-popular Sunday Disco nights remain for those who ache to do the Bertha Butt Boogie one more time.
Chili Pepper, 621 Washington Ave., 531-9661: The giant cartoon panels on the walls of this restaurant/club hybrid give the place a distinctly bright, cheery feel that's a welcome change from the cavernous ambience of most South Beach haunts. The theme here is "Get Fed, Get Rocked," which means you can come in and enjoy nouveau Southwest cuisine until midnight on weekends. After that, the tables are swept away, the music gets cranked up, and those looking for a little wine and light conversation go scurrying elsewhere. The dress code here is casual, like the atmosphere, and the music has a welcome rock 'n' roll slant.
Club Deuce, 222 14th St., 673-9537: The eternally popular Deuce, with its horseshoe-shaped bar and well-worn pool table, is a popular spot for a quick drink in between club stops. Thirstier souls can stay the whole night -- and many do.
Club One, 1045 Fifth St., 534-4999: Miami is known for Latin flavor, but at most Beach clubs, the beat is strictly techno-house-tribal-trance. Not so here. Club One is just the thing if you're in the mood for some salsa and merengue tossed in with your disco. Patrons like to dress up, the weekly live entertainment features top-name Latin music acts and the decor is upscale if unremarkable.
Dune, 1439 Washington Ave., 672-7111: The old Le Loft site has undergone a major face-lift -- the place now looks like the opulent den of a wealthy oil sheik, complete with palm fronds, billowing curtains and lots of camels and sand dunes. OK, so the last two are only painted on the walls -- you still get the idea. Though the sign says "A Private Dance Club," we got inside with no fuss. The shiny dance floor is surrounded by plush, well-spaced seating areas, and the whole place has an aura of refined cool that makes you feel sophisticated just by breathing the air.
Kremlin, 727 Lincoln Rd., 673-3150: At one end of this gay dance club, a large, stately bar sports all the elegance and mahogany ambience of a drinking room inside an ornate old palace. At the other end, a loud, crowded dance floor surrounded by dancing go-go boys quickly reminds you just where you are. The layout is ingenious -- the place seems bigger than it really is. Dancing and debauchery are the main virtues here.
Les Bains, 753 Washington Ave., 532-8768: That's French for "the baths," and you'd better have one before heading here if you plan on getting in. Dress up, too: The chic crowds here have more on their minds than just getting sloshed. Style counts. The club is smaller than it looks from the outside -- the dance floor gets crowded real quick -- but the tourist-heavy revelers don't seem to mind. Make sure to check out the tiny TV screens inset into the columns around the dance floor. Not cheap.
Lua, 409 Española Way, 534-0061: You may not have heard of this ritzy hangout tucked away on Española Way -- and they like it that way. Lua is a members-only club, an intimate affair where the in-crowd goes to relax and chit-chat. Overstuffed couches and chairs, discreet lighting and candlelight lend this spot the air of an exclusive retreat, and there's usually a familiar face or two among the patrons. Admittance is restricted, so if you're not a card-carrying member, make sure you're looking sharp before you try your luck at the door.
Mickey's, 1203 Washington Ave., 538-1242: Without the name, this would be nothing but a glorified Bennigan's, complete with full restaurant service, pool tables, elegant decor, lots of boxing memorabilia and a nice-size dance floor. Slap Mickey Rourke's name on the marquee, and suddenly everyone wants to get in -- even those who aren't French. Both the eternally hip and the ones who don't have a clue line up outside its doors every weekend, which proves the place isn't merely the tourist trap it seems.
Paragon, 245 22nd St., 534-1235: Owners of South Beach's largest gay club sold their former location to rocker Prince and are moving up the way to the old Club Nu space. Saturday nights in May, they'll be hosting a number of construction parties there, leading up to the Memorial Day weekend grand opening. Those who already miss the sheer size and spectacle of the old locale at 1235 Washington Ave. will have to wait for the Purple One to take over: We expect big things.
Rebar, 1121 Washington Ave., 672-4788: One of the Beach's smaller venues makes up for its modest size with an eclectic energy that's hard to match. Crowds tend to be on the young side here, which gives its crowded dance floor a vitality that is highly contagious. The long, rectangular lounge is one long bar on the right, dance floor on the left, and some chairs and tables for those who want to sit and gawk. The music mix is thoroughly unpredictable -- reggae one minute, hard rock the next, synth dance tunes after that. A pool table is available for the eight ball-inclined.
Rose's Bar & Music Lounge, 754 Washington Ave., 532-0228: This laid-back, leave-the-attitude-at-the-door joint continues to grow in popularity, and deservedly so. Plenty of bar seating space, a roomy stage for the ubiquitous musical entertainment, brightly lit pool tables, and well-spaced tables and chairs make it a great spot to simply hang. Dress casually and plan to stay a spell -- it's the kind of place where you feel right at home on your first visit.
SNAP!, 821 Lincoln Rd., 673-8551: The name may conjure visions of a dance palace, but this is really an intimate bar nestled among the Lincoln Road storefronts, better suited for gossip and cocktails. The decor is simple, merely a long bar running the length of this sliver of a space with seating on the other side. Dark, cozy and tasteful, it appeals as much to strolling locals as it does to its regular clientele.
The Spot, 218 Española Way, 532-1682: A South Beach fixture, The Spot seems destined to live on forever. Everyone seems to have been here at least once, which explains the bar's legendary aura. Literally anything goes at The Spot, particularly in the later hours -- the place is too small and too crowded for any strict observance of social etiquette. Dance anywhere you like, dress as grungy as you like, and don't worry about offending anyone: Everyone is too drunk to notice.
Stephen Talkhouse, 616 Collins Ave., 531-7557: Still the Beach's most popular live music venue, The Talkhouse puts the performers -- regular acts include local faves Nil Lara, Mary Karlzen and The Mavericks -- within arm's reach of the crowd. The acoustics are terrific, the decor is nothing special -- appropriately reminiscent of a cluttered garage -- and the bar can be difficult to reach, particularly when the place is crowded. But there's plenty of table seating to be had, and the bar service is most efficient.
Twist, 1057 Washington Ave., 528-9478: One of the few places on the Beach that's hopping every single night, probably because there's never a cover and the crowd is so friendly. There's a dance floor, a DJ, pinball machines and a friendly crowd of regulars at the pool table. Everyone seems eager to chat. On weekends, the place comes to jostling life just as all the other clubs are winding down.
Uncle Sam's Musicafe, 1141 Washington Ave., 532-0973: Not really a club, but more like a record store on steroids. So why is it here, you ask? Because it's the best place on the Beach to go for a smart drink -- one of those all-natural, vitamin-laden concoctions that don't taste all that great but will keep your disco-dancing energy cranking all night long. The bar serves beer, too, and there's a pool table and pinball.
Union Bar & Grill, 653 Washington Ave., 672-9958: One of those places where the ambience changes with every other step. At times, you'll think you've stumbled into an out-of-the-way English pub -- there's even one section with a towering bookcase filled with actual books. Other times, like when you head to the psychedelic dance room in the rear, you'll feel like Alice in Wonderland. The crowd is young, slack and enamored of denim.
Van Dome, 1532 Washington Ave., 534-4288: The elegance in this club is deceiving. Sure, the place is so posh it makes you feel guilty for wearing jeans -- the stained glass dome over the dance floor alone gives it a snooty, classy touch. The full-menu restaurant, while pricey, adds further cachet to this swanky joint. But despite all the nice threads and upraised pinkie fingers, the proceedings can get downright raunchy here in the wee hours. Fashion shows and live entertainment are routine, and the music of choice is dance-friendly pop.
Velvet, 634 Collins Ave., 532-0313: Gloom is more like it. Quite possibly the darkest club on the Beach, good news for those who are self-conscious about their lack of rhythm or aren't quite satisfied with that ambitious new 'do. The decor is Spartan, mostly some fluorescent paint and black lights. It's the circus atmosphere and lack of pomposity -- you want razzle- dazzle, go somewhere else -- that makes this a popular favorite among locals. An intimate, cozy back room has comfortable booths big enough for stretching out.
Warsaw Ballroom, 1450 Collins Ave., 531-4555: The reigning grand dame of South Beach gay clubs. Crucial to the club's lasting popularity are its no-cover Wednesday nights and its ever-changing Saturday nights -- the current House of Wong theme draws the straight, the gay, and everything in between for a thoroughly Felliniesque milieu. The sound system here would make even Helen Keller shout "Turn it down!" -- the bass is so bone-crunchingly deep, the highs so downright loud, conversations are liberally sprinkled with "What?" and "Huh?" Those on the dance floor, however, don't seem to mind.
West End, 942 Lincoln Rd., 538-9378: Once the anchor for Sunday afternoon T-dances, the West End has settled back into its original identity as a laid-back gay hangout. The usual trappings are here -- pool tables, plenty of bar stools and a great location suited for watching passers-by along Lincoln Road. A popular getaway for those tired of the Washington Avenue grind.