AMIKA Loft Lounge & Discotheque



The main space at the Amika can become pure dancefloor.

The collapse of South Beach’s red velvet rope.
By Ceci Valdes-Shaw

For most, a former synagogue wouldn’t figure as the best site for an upscale new venue, even if it was centrally located on legendary South Beach nightclub row Washington Avenue. But for nightlife enthusiast Tony Guerra, the building at 1532 Washington – considered jinxed because of its dim interior – was perfect. “I knew as an address location it was going to be great,” he said. “But when I walked into the space, I turned around and said, ‘This was a gathering place; it has to be positive. I’m gonna give the building the respect it deserves.’”

The goal of Guerra’s first independent venture was convergence. As a Miami native, he recognized that the city, especially South Beach, “is a melting pot, and that’s what I wanted for [the club]: A true Miamian, friendly and inviting space, capturing the essence of the five-star formula. Diversity is exactly what I wanted to achieve, and exactly what we’re accomplishing.” In that way, the venue is reflective of the openness and warmth that Guerra himself is known for. “[The club] is a Tony signature,” he said. “I wanted it to represent me.”

Guerra wanted his presence to be felt across the entire club. For instance, its diversified guests wouldn’t encounter a single secluded VIP section: Guerra says that the velvet rope mentality would hinder the friendly atmosphere he envisioned. According to him, everyone who walks in is a VIP.

After weeks of searching for a word or phrase that would reflect both his venue’s concept and interior design, Guerra found it had been within him all along. “I’m an amicable person,” he says – hence, Amika. “I replaced the usual ‘c’ with a ‘k’ for added edge,” “ You can say it in other languages and no matter how you pronounce it, it has a great ring to it.” And, Guerra says, the name’s female connotation keeps curious minds aroused as to just who this Amika might be.

The comfy, stripe-y loft.

An “Amicable Atmosphere”
But “Amika” doesn’t stand alone: Accompanying the name with “Loft Lounge & Discotheque” was important for Guerra, to be in concert with the recent real estate craze sweeping Miami. High-rise condominiums offering loft-style apartments are erecting on practically every vacant lot in the city, and their potential occupants – young executives – are a target demo for Amika.

The full name is as descriptive as it is trendy: Amika does indeed have a loft area, created by independent interior designer Matt Peterson. Peterson left the 10,000-square-foot structure’s Art Deco exterior intact, but conjured up a master plan to turn its inside from gloom to glam in just seven months.

Peterson’s goal was London chic with a smooth ambiance, but the assignment was tough. The former synagogue had numerous levels, including a cramped mezzanine. Plus, it was “really dark and the ceiling was low,” says Peterson. “It didn’t seem very attractive.” So he raised the ceilings, and encased the mezzanine – now the loft – in glass, to maintain the view of the club but allow for sonic separation. That made it possible for Guerra to feature hip-hop upstairs and house below, without any perceptible clash.

The loft’s increased but still manageable height also allowed for neighborliness between the two areas. In other clubs that Peterson visited, he found that multiple levels created an unpleasant separation. “They seemed disconnected because of the height,” he says. “Our loft is very close to the main space.”

No ladder to this loft.

The front entrance also got a do-up. Peterson cleared out the space directly inside the club, originally a hallway with offices, and made it into the namesake “Lounge,” situated directly under the loft.

To enhance Guerra’s “amicable atmosphere,” Peterson used “both warm and cool colors framed by wood veneers and classic lines,” he says. And like many lounge designers, Peterson likes to personify his venue as an uninhibited female: “Amika likes to show off its body,” he says. “Structural lines and angles give it expression. It likes the lights on or off.”

Peterson opted for modular furniture, in foam green and hot orange. Multi-colored stripes adorn both the island-style DJ booth (brown and blue) and the ceiling in the loft (pink, orange and mint), which is visible from the dancefloor below. “The lights from the main room project onto the static colored lines on the ceiling, creating the illusion that they’re moving,” says Peterson. Like a vixen mid-dance, perhaps.

The main room, watched from above through the loft windows.

Soft Glow, Hard Beats
To cast more light on his bold lady, Peterson opted to expose the white acoustical foam used for sound absorption on the ceilings and walls, rather than paint it black to camouflage it, as many clubs do. “By leaving it in white, we’re able to project color onto it to create a mood,” he says.

That’s where Ian Elbrand came in. The 13-year veteran of lighting and video design, who counts Mansion and Opium Garden amongst his club credits, installed a variety of color-changing Color Kinetics LED fixtures throughout the club, controlled by the company’s iPlayer and a Martin Professional Detonator, usually used for strobes. And, Elbrand reports, Amika is one of the only clubs to feature traditional Kodak Ektagraph slide projectors, for which he creates original content.

Peterson and Elbrand were not the only two masterminds at work. Terry McNeil of Pro Sound added the final and perhaps most important touch - sound. He spec-ed four EAW Avalon series DCS2 subwoofers, two DCT1 tweeter clusters and EAW LA215 DJ monitors – and that’s only downstairs. Upstairs, McNeil installed six more LA215’s, and four of his custom-made TMC LAF (Loud As F—k) subs.

What furniture?

With so much attention shifting to downtown Miami’s nightclub districts, the fun, intimate Amika gives locals a reason to stay on the Beach. And with a WMC schedule that features deep house’s superheroes, March’s annual tourists will gladly skip the cab ride too. “We really accomplished true machinery,” Guerra proudly stated.


6 - EAW Avalon DC2 three-ways
4 - EAW Avalon DCS2 horn-loaded subwoofers
2 - EAW Avalon DCT1 supertweeter arrays

DJ Booth
2 - EAW LA215 two-ways
2 - Pioneer CDJ-1000 digital vinyl turntables
2 - Technics 1200 MKII turntables
1 - Crest Audio Pro 7001 amplifier
1 - EAW MX250 electronic processor
1 - Rane ME 15B micrographic equalizer
1 - Rane MP 2016a rotary mixer
1 - Rane XP 2016a expander

6 - EAW LA215 two-ways
4 - TMC LAF subwoofers
1 - Crest Audio Pro 7001 amplifier
1 - Crest Audio Pro 8001 amplifier
1 - EAW MX250 electronic processor
1 - Rane ME 15B micrographic equalizer

DJ Booth
2 - Technics 1200 MKII turntables
1 - Denon DN-D4000 dual CD/MP3 player
1 - EAW LA215 two-way full range system
1 - Rane ME 15B micrographic equalizer
1 - Rane MP 44 mixer


Tony’s Touch
Amika’s vibrant young owner had tried his hand at everything, including local politics.

Whoever said a man can’t have it all has obviously never had the pleasure of meeting the amicable Tony Guerra, nightlife impresario and nightclub owner. Ritzy Londonesque nightclub Amika is not the only asset he’s managed to acquire, with a business savvy mind, good looks, political inclinations, friendly demeanor, good looks and the power to throw one hell of a party. And did I mention good looks?

At the age of 33, Miami native Guerra has already gained a highly regarded status in the city of Miami Beach, but it was back 12 years ago when he decided he would one day own a nightclub. A soccer scholarship took him to Drexel University in Philadelphia, but his looks led to modeling jobs, which would introduce him to world of entertainment. “I decided I wanted to be a club owner in 1992,” he said. “Being a model in college, traveling, seeing nightclubs opening up and doing photo shoots all came hand in hand, and I liked that world.”

Graduating with a marketing degree, Guerra returned to Miami and fell right into the nightclub industry, taking a position at Bash in 1985. That’s when he found his niche, and luckily for him it was also his passion. “I liked networking, and realized I could throw a pretty good party,” he said. “I fell into the business side of it.” But it’s the production elements that Guerra finds most exciting. “Every time there’s a new event and it comes to the ads and marketing, I get my fix,” he says.

Guerra continued to build up his skills and name producing events and assisting in the opening of renowned clubs such as The Forge, Jimmy Z’s, Prive and crobar. It was while operating as the Miami face for crobar, while its owners opened up another branch in New York, that Guerra decided to take the plunge and start his own venue. “I got that itch. It was my time to take that step,” he said. But before he did, he needed to answer a higher calling: public service.

The Commish?
Ever wonder how a nightlife operator suddenly becomes a political figure? When the city tries to close nightclubs right when the party is getting started. During the period while crobar was under his operation, peak hours were “between 1:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.” The city of Miami Beach was contemplating a 2 a.m. curfew, which “would have had a negative economic impact on our community,” says Guerra. So he decided he would carry the industry’s flag by running for commissioner. He lost by only by 55 votes.

But by the end of his campaign, his position had shifted. “The inspiration to run for office was the 2 a.m. issue, but I became aware of so many other stronger issues that my message really changed,” he said.

Having gained publicity as a commissioner hopeful, Guerra started plans for his own grand opening. The result, Amika, was exactly what he envisioned, a place where lounging, dancing and dining could come together under one roof, in a friendly Miamian way.

Business has been booming since the club first opened – in the notoriously dead summer off-season, no less – and Guerra attributes its success to his overall philosophy: Design for the clientele you are targeting, get to know and recognize your patrons, and make the guests feel like it is their nightclub. “Treat the VIP’s like regulars and the regulars like VIP’s,” he summarizes.

Even with Amika open, Guerra has been working on additional projects, producing high-end events for names like Maxim and Playboy Golf. But even that hasn’t kept him from starting his next venture, a South Beach-style club transplanted to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, slated to open early this year. –CVS

  The Sched
What’s up at Amika during WMC week

Monday, March 21st
Juicy Music Party

Robbie Rivera
Antoine Clamaran
Benny Bennasi
Peter Rauhofer
Tom Stephan
Mark Knight

Tuesday, March 22nd
Compost Records Party

Bugs In The Attic

Wednesday, March 23rd
Music 2 & Naked Music Artist

Andy Caldwell
Fred Everything
Lisa Shaw
Darshan Jefferson
Fort Know Five

Thursday, March 24th
Defected Records Party

Kid Creme
Sandy Rivera
DJ Gregory
Junior Jack
Martin Solvieg
Soul Central

Friday  March 25th
MN2S 10-Year Party

John Knight
Knee Deep     
DJ Pierre
Mark Knight     
Sharam Jey
Jon Cutler     
E Smoove
DJ Disciple 
Seamus Haji
Victor Simonelli
Joe T Vanelli     
Robbie Rivera
Johnny Fiasco   



Back To Top

Copyright 2005 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2005 TESTA Communications