Club + Bars

20 years of day drinking and 4-hour lunches: This Miami Beach spot invented the ‘day club’

You can live that lounging life on a day bed at the beach, thanks to Nikki Beach clubs all over the world.
You can live that lounging life on a day bed at the beach, thanks to Nikki Beach clubs all over the world.

At the epicenter of Miami Beach day drinking, a salty breeze blows, the rosé flows and the laughter rises. People line up at the buffet. They drink and chat with friends, snap selfies, cuddle with significant others on luxurious day beds. One or two tables share a hookah (yes - that’s still a thing). A guy wanders past playing the sax, and dancing women stroll from table to table, encouraging abandon.

At Nikki Beach, every day calls for another celebration of life.

The global brand celebrates 20 years in the business this year after revolutionizing the concept of the day club. But despite locations all around the world, Nikki Beach has never been just about getting your drink on as early as possible. It’s about something more important, its creators say. It’s about paying tribute to the joy of being alive.

These days, the Nikki Beach brand has many reasons to celebrate. It now encompasses 13 restaurants and clubs in locations like St. Tropez, St Barth, Ibiza, Monte Carlo and Dubai, plus hotels and resorts in five international hot spots including Santorini and Koh Samui in Thailand.

But its beginnings were more modest. The brand started in 1998 as a quiet garden by the ocean in Miami Beach, named Nikki Café to honor owner Jack Penrod’s daughter Nicole, who died in a car accident when she was 18 (before that, it was a club called Penrod’s). The idea was to create a place where friends and family could spend precious time together and honor Nicole’s memory. Eventually it became Nikki Beach.

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Nikki Beach perfected the idea of the day club in South Beach.

“We wanted to celebrate her life instead of mourn,” Nikki Beach CEO Lucia Penrod says. “You come to our places, and you truly feel happy. You leave your worries behind and celebrate life with your friends and family.“

At the time, day clubbing wasn’t popular, says Michael Sin, general manager of Nikki Beach in Miami Beach.

“When I started working, the focus was on the nightlife and party vibe,” says Sin, who has been with Nikki Beach for 20 years and worked at a variety of jobs, including busboy, bartender, food and beverage director. “If you went to Ocean Drive or Washington Avenue, it was club to club to club the length of the street.”

But Nikki Beach had the best address on the beach - 1 Ocean Drive - so why not bring the party to the daylight hours?

“We were the first in South Beach that gave that luxury experience out in the open, on the beach with the elements,” Sin says.

“We changed the way people party around the world,” Penrod says. “When we first started, it was all nightclubs. Now it’s fashionable to have four-hour lunches. You come to Nikki Beach at 1 or 2, you stay until 4 or 5, you have some champagne, and you’re home by 7.”

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Lucia and Jack Penrod.

Things have changed at the property over the years, of course. When Nikki Beach first opened, its glamorous style drew celebrities like Madonna, Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Harrison Ford. They came because of Nikki Beach’s reputation for luxury, lavish parties - and a hard and fast “No cameras” rule.

Now, of course, cell phones rule the day, so cameras are everywhere. The celebrities may have found new and more isolated spots, but guests can capture the fun beach vibe and broadcast it for all the world to see.

The “20 Year Celebration,” as the brand calls it, has included the creation of a new home fragrance, publication of a gorgeous, glossy coffee table book from Assouline and a specially designed, commemorative bottle of Chateau Minuty rosé. There’s also a daylong White Party-themed bash scheduled for Dec. 14 at the South Beach location, with live music, a dance troupe and specialty cocktails. Expect to see that Minuty rosé everywhere.

So how does Nikki Beach keep drawing crowds? Penrod credits the staff of each and every Nikki Beach resort or restaurant.

“We tell our staff, ‘When you wake up, look at yourself in the mirror and say your blessings. You’re healthy, and you’re alive. Make a decision that today you are going to celebrate. And when you walk out the door you’ve got to make that contagious.’ ”

Sin agrees.

“We truly care. We’re passionate and sincere, and that sets us apart,” he says. “It’s the way we interact with guests. You go back to a place you’ve been before with the anticipation of a memory you’ve had before. Our guests celebrate life with us and return with the anticipation they’ll do that again.”

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You don’t have to look like this to have a good time at Nikki Beach.

Nikki Beach

Where: 1 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach

“20 Year Celebration” White Party: 1 p.m. Dec. 14; tickets $50 general admission, $300-$1,600 for VIP tables at nikkibeachmiamievents.com; 21 and over only

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