Mixx, New Jersey



Mixx's cozier upstairs bar, which overlooks the floor.

Injecting A.C. with a little Sin.

By Kerri Mason
Photos courtesy of Borgata

Nothing about Atlantic City, N.J., screams hip. A 1976 vote allowing casino gambling was meant to resuscitate the former tourist trap, but instead exacerbated the city’s lopsided economy. Now, long stretches of dilapidated buildings and decaying pawn shops give way to glittering, gaudy capitalist palaces that can’t help but be tarnished by the surrounding gloom. Hotels like Trump’s Taj Mahal and Showboat haven’t been revamped since they opened in the ‘80s, and family attractions like Tropicana’s Tivoli Pier, an indoor amusement park meant to recall the Steel Pier glory of early A.C., were eerily abandoned years before they eventually closed.

Perhaps the city’s defining moment was when Nick and Jessica Simpson visited while taping their hit reality MTV reality series “Newlyweds.” The impossibly young, cute and popular pair was looking for a party – and found themselves sampling Polish appetizers with grannies on respirators in a dusky upstairs meeting room at the Taj. Instead of being the East’s answer to Las Vegas, Atlantic City is more like its Jurassic Park, a doomed experiment left to vegetate.

That is before Vegas itself, in the form of hotel and gaming company MGM Mirage – owner of Sin City’s MGM Grand, Bellagio, Mirage, Treasure Island and New York-New York – came calling. And for a price tag of over $1 billion, they created Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, Atlantic City’s first new casino-hotel in 13 years, and the trumpeter of a new era for the forgotten city. The sleek, golden slab of a building, unveiled in July 2003, comprises 125,000 feet of gaming space, over 2,000 guest rooms and a 50,000-square-foot spa, but most importantly, it brings A.C. into the modern era, with the V.I.P. service, cushy accoutrements and intuitive trendometer that turned Vegas from hipster punchline to palace in less than five years.

Following the Vegas model, a cool nightspot was naturally a critical part of the equation. But Mixx, the sole club inside Borgata, is more than just the requisite nightclub-within-the-hotel. General manager Eric Millstein and co-developer/executive chef Edwyn Ferrari have successfully branded the venue, imbuing it with an individual character of energy, sexiness, and ethnic-tinged fun that complements – not competes with – the Borgata’s, a delicate balancing act that, when successful, spells success for host and tenant.

Millstein is sensitive to the distinction. “Mixx took off immediately,” he says. “People just wanted to be in Borgata, and Mixx is the hotspot of Borgata.” Joined in perfect symbiosis, the two entities are giving Atlantic City something it never really had: A nightlife.

The club in restaurant mode.

The Real Deal
Mixx is an ingeniously conceived single-room, two-level nightclub that just happens to be a gourmet restaurant in the early evening. But don’t let the dual use fool you: With a speaker system from Meyer Sound, full video rig featuring High End System’s original Catalyst model (with the orbital head), and an octopus lighting truss that raises and lowers in different configurations, Mixx is no pansy poseur club. Millstein, who was recruited while working on Space Miami owner Louis Puig’s Club 609 in Coconut Grove, wouldn’t have it any other way.

The open and airy club is rendered in earth tones and orange accents, with only one room (not counting the exclusive VIP hideaways) but many different environments. The second level, accessed by wide staircases, balances the big room’s height with low ceilings and a cove-like feel. Cushy circular furniture and a dimmer glow complete the low-key vibe, but when the club’s hopping, these spots are just as kinetic as the main floor, which is always just a head-turn away – a definite energy booster.

The transformation from dining to dancing is orchestrated down to the last moment, with the final restaurant seating at 10 p.m. on weekends. “We like to bring the energy level up at about 10:45 p.m.,” says Millstein. “The lights are going to go down, the music’s going to go up, the BPM’s are going to go up a bit – gradual, we don’t kill you. We also like a distraction from the fact that we’re taking tables out, so that might be a percussionist, because if you’re sitting there eating and you see someone banging on the skins, and then someone’s taking a table away next to you, you’re not really going to notice it. Same thing with the saxophonist and the electric violinist walking through the tables.”

It’s during this time when the arms of the spider truss – bearing High End Systems’ Cyberlights, Technobeams, Dataflash strobes and Vari-lite VL1000’s, among other high-end fixtures – move their way down from the Color Kinetics iColor Cove-paneled ceiling, framing the dancers who have started to perform choreographed routines in the newly cleared-out dancefloor’s center. “We seat the rim of the restaurant last to get the tables in the middle out first,” explains Millstein. “It’s rude: You’re paying $50-plus to eat and then all of a sudden we want the table. But we do it in such a way that it’s fun and fresh. It’s theatrical by design.”

If diners get too roped in by the “stage show” to peak outside Mixx’s video screen-covered façade during these critical minutes, they’ll be shocked upon their exit by the massive queue of clubbers now stretching around the club. Millstein doesn’t advertise – “You know your product’s not very hot when you have to go and do those things” – but the bridge-and-tunnelers still crowd Mixx every Saturday, resulting in the club’s biggest problem. “There’s too many people,” sighs Millstein. “Too many people who want to get in; too many people who want bottle service. The venue is just not big enough to accommodate the masses who want to come to Mixx.” The club’s legal capacity is 750.

Millstein attributes the venue’s success to a group of factors, the least of which is not his SoBe-style bottle service package. “My training came from Miami, so when I came here the very first thing was, we’re doing bottle service, period,” says Millstein. “Good bottle service was never in Atlantic City before Mixx.” Moneyed Mixx-ers get a “Tut-ian” five-gallon sterling silver punch bowl with rimmed inserts for glasses, fruit of their choice, a separate bucket of ice “so you don’t have to draw from where your glasses are,” and personalized service. “If you’re spending $300 a bottle you want to be rubbed,” says Millstein. “In other places I’ve experienced, they plunk the bottle down in front of you and you’re done. They’ve got your $300, they don’t care. But our intention is to repeat. That what we call it here: repeat business, intention to return is high because the experience is great.” On big nights, Mixx can sell well over 100 bottles. Add that to an across-the-board $20 cover and you’ve got some take.

You can see it all from up here: Meyer speakers, the loaded "spider" truss, and Color Kinetics on the ceiling are just the beginning of Mixx's charms.

Booth Boys
Millstein is backed up by a team of techheads manning Mixx’s powerful systems. Onsite techs Mike “Mosin” Olson (sound) and ChristianJude “Eyeball” Zacharka (lighting and video) work with Borgata entertainment system manager Chris Sannino to make sure that everything in Mixx is functioning at the highest level possible.

Eyeball has a spacious booth beside the DJ’s on Mixx’s second level, which overlooks the main floor’s open atrium. He works a grandMA Light console, running version 5.44 software, for both the lights and the Catalyst. “Because all of the lighting and video is controlled by a single console, what you see is consistent throughout the club. This video vibes with this cue and so on,” he says. “This allows me to create an organic and flowing vibe to all visual aspects of the room, without having to plan with a video tech.”

Eyeball plans his video presentations around the music. “Christian is very creative,” says Millstein. “Say we’re going a hip-hop set: He’ll play old videos of Run DMC. For our New Year’s Eve party, he spliced up parts of the big New Year’s scene in Strange Days.”

Sannino’s got a word for the sound system: “Loud. The place is loaded with sound; everywhere you look you can see a speaker. The floor is completely surrounded with very high-output speakers.” Twenty-one Meyer Sound boxes – 15 from the self-powered CQ series, and six self-powered PSW-2 subs – hang from a motorized winch system above the dancefloor, while EAW subs, Electro-Voice EVID series ceiling speakers and Crown amps (Macro-Tech, I-Tech, and CTs Series) carry the rest of the load. A Peavey MediaMatrix 760NT is in control.

The DJ (visitors like Jonathan Peters and Junior Vasquez, or weekly resident Basara) gets turntables from Technics, CD players from Pioneer and Denon, a Xone mixer from Allen & Heath, and some added goodies, like a TASCAM CD-RW700 CD recorder to capture his brilliance and an Aphex Aural Exciter to fatten his bottom.

“Not A Casino Experience”
The most impressive part of Mixx isn’t its intimidating gear arsenal or its smart layout. The club manages to feel like a big city club – not one inside a casino, or even one in New Jersey, even though you have to walk through dinging slots and drive the thruway to get there. “I want my staff to feel that when they walk into Mixx they’re not in the casino,” says Millstein. “I give them the information they need, but I’m careful. I want to make sure they feel like this is a unique experience, not a casino experience.”

And if the staff buys it, so will the patrons. Says Millstein: “Whether you’re dining, whether you’re just in to slip under the cover radar at nine p.m. for a cocktail or hanging out in the club, I want you to feel like you could be in the middle of anywhere, not in Atlantic City.” And that might be the best thing to happen to Atlantic City in decades.



Outside, 50 video screens prep you for the sensory onslaught within.

8 - Sennheiser EW500 RF receivers (with ASP-1 antenna splitters)
5 - APHEX 720 Dominator II Precision multiband peak limiters
4 - Sennheiser EW300 IEM stereo transmitters
3 - Technics SL-1200M3D turntables (with Ortofon cartridges)
2 - EV SXA100+ two-way monitors
2 - Pioneer CDJ-1000 digital vinyl turntables
1 - APHEX 204 Aural Exciter (with Optical Big Bottom audio processor)
1 - Ashly MQX-2310 graphic equalizer
1 - Denon DN-9000 dual CD/MP3 player
1 - Denon DN-2600F dual CD player
1 - Allen & Heath Xone:62 mixer
1 - Pioneer DJM-600 mixer
1 - TASCAM CD-RW700 CD recorder
1 - Klark Teknik DN410 parametric equalizer
1 - Yamaha 01V digital mixing console

18 - EV EVID C4.2 two-way ceiling speakers
16 - NEXO PS8 speakers
10 - Meyer Sound CQ-2 self-powered speakers
8 - EAW SB850zR subwoofers
7 - Crown MA-1202 power amplifiers
7 - NEXO LS400 SubBass subwoofers
6 - EV EVID C10.I ceiling subwoofers
6 - Meyer Sound PSW-2 subwoofers
6 - Peavey MM-8802 audio breakout boxes
5 - EV EVID C8.2 two-way ceiling speakers
5 - Meyer Sound CQ-1 self-powered speakers
2 - Crown I-4000 digital power amplifiers
4 - NEXO PS15 speakers
3 - Crown MA-2402 power amplifiers
2 - Crown MA-602 power amplifiers
1 - ADC Pro Patch programmable audio patchbay
1 - Crown CTs 8200 amplifier
1 - Crown CTs 4200 amplifier
1 - eMachine T2240 computer
1 - Extron System 7SC active switcher (with video scaler)
1 - Peavey MediaMatrix MM-760nt mainframe
1 - Powerware 5115 UPS system
1 - Symetrix 581E distribution amplifier
1 - TASCAM DV-D6500 controllable DVD player

60 - Color Kinetics iColor Cove LED lights
20 - High End Systems Studio Color 250 moving yoke fixtures
10 - ETC Source Four MultiPARs (with CXI color fusion scrollers)
10 - High End Systems Dataflash AF1000 strobes
10 - High End Systems Cyberlight Turbo moving mirror fixtures
10 - High End Systems Studio Color 575 moving yoke fixtures
6 - ETC Source Four lighting fixtures
5 - Vari-Lite VL1000 ERS luminaires
4 - Martin Wizard effect lights
3 - High End Systems Technobeam moving mirror fixtures
1 - High End Systems Catalyst Pro v3.3 Media Server and software
1 - MA Lighting grandMA lighting console


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Copyright 2005 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2005 TESTA Communications