Nikki Beach, Atlantic City



Chaises and cabanas make Nikki the ultimate in bottle service luxury.

Can you hear me now? Good.

By Chrissi Mark

The latest in Michael Penrod’s chain of Nikki Beach clubs has been breaking boundaries – including walls and a physical building structure – since its Memorial Day opening. “It’s completely on the sand, the whole thing,” Penrod says. “But we brought in a bathroom trailer, kitchen trailers, offices, refrigeration, a shed and bars, and set up on the beach on wood platforms.” He also notes that the executive porta-johns are nicer than most clubs’ perma-toilets.

To prevent nomadic beach bunnies from wandering in, the 64,000-square-foot club is bordered by an eight-foot bamboo fence and, like all of the Nikki furniture, it was custom-built in Vietnam. All the décor is weather-ready, and resilient for sun and sand. But the other elements of A.C. have given Nikki some trouble.

“We had a lot of struggles,” Penrod says. “We had to deal with the state and the city, so many permits and loopholes, and things cost a lot of money there, like triple from South Beach. This is the most expensive property we’ve opened, almost in the world, and it’s just a beach club.”

But the costs were well worth it. It’s been bumper-to-bumper on the Jersey Turnpike when the sun is shining, with thousands arriving in droves from Philly, Jersey and even New York to get the Nikki experience. “It was the busiest opening we ever had out of all the Nikki Beaches,” Penrod says, though the established Nikki brand was a big help on the promotional/marketing front. “We have a huge client base that live in the Northeast, who go to either South Beach or our places in Europe.”

Nikki adds a bit of nature to Atlantic City's high-rise landscape.

The Elements of Sound
The club opens at 11 a.m. every rain-less day, with a DJ spinning in the center umbrella-covered booth at all times. And the music is pumping, walls or no walls, attracting attention way down the beach. “It’s the only place on earth we have that there’s no noise restriction,” Penrod says, “so we crank it up as loud as we want.”

But cranking up the volume is simple compared to maintaining two zones – a conversation-friendly restaurant area and dancefloor-style nightclub sound – in mother nature’s playground, with only a dozen boxes. “If the wind’s blowing,” says Timm Winters, on-site sound guy for Pennsylvania-based installer Clair Brothers, “the sound’s blowing with it.” At first, windier days spelled destruction, in the form of DJs overdriving the system to compensate for the volume loss. But now jocks get a Winters lecture on the limits, the dos and don’ts, and weather-dependent, constant re-EQ-ing.

In the two months since opening, Winters has already redesigned the portable audio set-up, which includes four 300W Clair Brothers P-2 speakers in each zone, plus four S-4 sub boxes throughout the expansive space. Though most of the wires are strung along the bamboo-fenced perimeter, Winters dug a special trench to bury those that run under the designated dance area around the booth, officially deemed the “club dancefloor” by DJs. Winters placed the four speakers in relatively close proximity around the 1,800-square foot section, through a sand-floored, bed-filled setup, which invites erratic dancing in typical Nikki fashion.

All the furniture was made in Vietnam to withstand the elements.

Million Dollar Nikki
The large white beds throughout the space make for excellent sun worshipping, and easily convert to a place to watch dancers, lightshows and even boxing matches at night. For the “Battles On The Beach,” featuring professional boxers and former heavyweights, there’s a ring set-up with surrounding bleachers, seats and even tables for ringside bottle service.

“We did concerts in the beginning, but the weather’s too fickle, and the city had a problem with my concert tent,” Penrod says. “So we started boxing events and they are [now] the busiest.”

And the rain hasn’t just washed out the live shows. “I’ve replaced quite a few speakers with the weather,” Winters says. “I mean, the speakers are paper cones, so when they take on water and then they start driving a lot of low end into them, it’s pretty easy for them to rip.” The indoor/outdoor boxes can only provide so much protection from the salt, sand, humidity and the wrath of Emily and the rest of the summer’s tropical storms, throughout Nikki’s Memorial-to-Labor Day season.

But all the headaches – God- and man-made – are worth being ahead of the curve to Penrod. “There’s a lot more potential here,” he says. “We came to Atlantic City knowing it was on the early cusp of change. There’s a lot of people putting money in – House of Blues just opened up, Borgata’s a new billion-dollar casino, Tropicana dumped in hundreds of millions. They’re picking up the pace in making it real high-end, like a Vegas of the East Coast. They’re really drawing some people. I imagine in another year or so it will be busy all the time, whether it’s bad weather or not.”

The makeshift DJ booth and light "rig" aren't much, but they do the job.


Nikki Gear
8 - Clair Brothers Audio P-2 speakers
6 - Martin MAC600 lights
4 - Clair Brothers Audio S-4 subs
1 - Denon DN-D6000 dual
     CD/MP3 player
1 - Vestax DJ mixer


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Copyright 2005 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2005 TESTA Communications