Snatch, Miami



The interior of Snatch: sounds like something dirty, looks anything but cookie-cutter.

Rock (bar) on.
By Kevin M. Mitchell
Photos by Simon Hare Photography

Not sure how often Sir Isaac Newton went clubbing, but it seems when he declared “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” he could have had South Beach in mind.

Opium Group director Mark Lehmkuhl, who was instrumental in the opening of Mansion and Opium Garden, is striking out on his own with Snatch, a club with the soul of a rock ‘n’ roll bar. But he insists that there wasn’t a particular spot he patterned the small venue after, saying only that “we strove to be unique and original, unlike cookie-cutter clubs.”

Yet clearly there’s a trend afoot with the popularity of Tommy Lee’s Rok Bar, which has locations in Miami and Los Angeles. Over in Fort Lauderdale, Revolution merges a Commie-red punk-rock theme with glam accoutrements. It’s a propagation of what we’ll call “faux-seedy, white- trash-lite, DJ-driven, rock spots.”

“There have been a couple of rock ‘n’ roll bars that have opened up here recently,” says Rolando “Roly” Aspuru of Sound Investment (Ice, Cielo), who handled Snatch’s installation. “But [Lehmkuhl] has been able to grasp the market [trend] and choreographed the whole thing well. He’s given this club a trashy stripper feel with elegance.”

For example, Snatch employees have carte blanche to dress however they like – the trashier the better. Customers are greeted by a mechanical bull, named Louie. “It’s a breath of fresh air,” says Aspuru. “You don’t have to worry about the clothes you’re wearing.”

Lehmkuhl agrees. “Snatch isn’t pretentious,” he says. “People come up to me all the time and say ‘thank you for giving South Beach what it needed so bad, for making going out fun again.’”

The mechanical bull, aka Louie, gets a lot of action.

If the trucker hat vibe is indeed a bona fide trend, then Snatch has raised – or is it lowered? – the bar. Noticeably absent is the some-are-more-equal-than-others VIP room. Are you looking to be impressed by the latest and greatest in LED projection technology? Go elsewhere: Here they didn’t buy a single new light, just used what was left from the previous club tenant, Butterfly (before that, it was Barcode). Interested in stuck-up security scrutinizing your every move? At Snatch these brutes are replaced by guys in street-wise leather jackets who’ll only give you a smile if they see you, say, dancing on the bar.

Smart Minus Snoot
So the 3,500-square-foot place on Washington Avenue with three bars and two floors might at first seem more remarkable what it doesn’t have then what it does.

Lehmkuhl wanted the opposite of notorious club Liquid (at which he was VIP Director under Chris Paciello), for example. He envisioned a place where “the social elite check their attitude at the door.” The décor lives up to the press release that boasts it is “inspired by decades of rock ‘n’ roll decadence.” Yes, that is lingerie that’s hanging from the antlered chandeliers. Additionally you have 12-foot painted mirrors with the likes of Jim Morrison and Axl Rose hanging on the walls, along with an overwhelming American flag. There are zebra-flavored chairs and the bar stools are saddles. There’s the glass-encased Rose Bar flanking a stunning staircase that takes you to a mezzanine level where you’ll find mismatched Louis XIII furniture, several leather swings, and … is that a pool table?

The soundtrack is rock, but not exclusively. Those young ladies with the Daisy Duke-inspired outfits swinging around the stripper pools are just as likely to be gyrating to hip-hop or house. The DJs working the booth include versatile local favorites Mark Leventhal, Joe Dert, and DJ Mode.

Despite, or perhaps because of the lack of VIP room, Snatch is drawing celebrities. Colin Farrell, Eva Longoria, Jada Pinkett, Enrique Iglesias and even über-couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes have been spotted. Yet overall it seems to be appealing to the locals, people wanting the neighborhood lounge feel.

For Lehmkuhl, it seems Snatch is much more about the vibe and the people working there than anything else. He had little to say about the technical aspects but a lot to say about the crew: “My club is based on the employees and I believe we have the best staff in South Beach. We hire based on personality first. You have to be fun, outgoing, sexy, and love to please the clientele. They are the entertainment, the show. They are why people keep coming back.”

Classic Rock, Grunge Budget
Lehmkuhl did in fact turn to award-winning Sound Investment to handle the sound and lighting. Working the Miami operation of the Chicago-based company is Aspuru, a former DJ who has been a designer for seven years. His previous work included a system at Lehmukuhl’s lavish Opium Garden.

“Mark was a partner in the Opium Garden club. Through different friends we heard he was opening this new club, and we approached him about working with him on it,” Aspuru says.

While it’s fashionable to throw fistful after fistful of benjamins at club interiors these days, the powers that be went in the opposite direction on that issue as well. It appears Snatch was put together on a proverbial shoestring.

“We had budget constraints,” Aspuru sighs. “The sound system is a very simple four-point system. But I’m happy with it.” There wasn’t a lot of time to be spent designing, and the entire install was done remarkably fast, executed in six days. But the soft-spoken and genial Aspuru’s philosophy to make friends and play nice with the general contractor and electricians ensured smooth sailing. “Right off the bat we try to make friends with the local tradesmen,” he laughs. “We watch their back, they watch ours. If not, the project can become a nightmare.”

Architecturally there were challenges: The room is narrow, and features high ceilings and hard surfaces… and where to put the DJ booth? Originally the plan called for two DJ booths, one in front and one upstairs. That gave way to a single mobile booth that could move upstairs and downstairs. But they couldn’t come up with a way to make one durable enough to handle that kind of movement, Aspuru says. Finally they settled on a single, rented DJ booth, which moves around the first floor. It features two Pioneer CDJ-1000 CD players, two Technics 1200 turntables, and a Pioneer DJM-500 DJ mixer.

Speaker placement was also challenging. “The design of the club was very restrictive and non-negotiable,” Aspuru says. Lehmkuhl insisted the bass cabinets go on just one side of the club, and under the dancing platforms. Front-loaded bass cabinets, instead of horn-loaded units, were the answer, “because of the position of speakers on one side and our throw distance wasn’t very long, this was the best option.”

Snatch’s ode to America, white trash, and rock DJs.

Then there’s the music coming through the speakers itself.

“One thing that was very important to [Lehmkuhl] was that the music format be a lot of everything: Dance, hip-hop, and rock. But a Ramones song from the 1970s sound very different then a new 50 Cent song. So we needed to EQ a system that made it all sound good.” He went with four Turbosound QLight TQ-315 full-range cabinets, because they feature a much wider compression driver than other speakers, which works better with rock; plus three EAW SB250 subwoofers. The mezzanine features four EAW MK2399 speakers, part of the company’s brand-new small-format, installation-only series; plus two SB1000zRi subwoofers.

The Tornado Of South Beach
Lehmkuhl wanted minimal lighting; just a lot of washes. “The most important thing about the lighting was not so much energy lighting, but control. The lighting is not on the dancefloor, but the dancers onstage, the bull, and those dancing on the bar.” Snatch features four Martin Professional MAC 250 Kryptons, and three High End Systems Dataflash strobes on top of the stripper poles. Those and other lights cannibalized from the space’s previous “five different clubs and five different owners” are run by Martin LightJockey control software.

“I would have loved to have added more lights,” says Aspuru. But then again, that would have gone against the anti-highbrow atmosphere which Lehmkuhl sought.

Lehmkuhl, has dominated Miami nightlife over the past five years with his long-running, well-branded nightspots. “His mind runs like a tornado,” says Aspuru of Lehmkuhl. “He’s brilliant, a great guy with a lot of ideas, and always thinking quicker than he can walk.”

“After being instrumental in the success of so many other A-List clubs I decided it was time to do my own thing, so I opened Snatch,” shrugs the club auteur. But the purposely low-brow spot is just a fun detour for his impressive career. His next venture is another high-end club, Suite, which is opening soon. Connected to Snatch but with a separate entrance, it’ll be everything Snatch isn’t: upscale, chic, and European.

“Sure, it’s a trend,” Aspuru says of the Snatch formula. “But I think Snatch is coming at the right time, in the right place. The fact that there’s no VIP rooms says a lot, plus the bull and the pool table. It’s where locals can kick back and relax, do some shots, and maybe get lucky.”

He pauses, then adds with a laugh: “I vote that [Snatch] is the number-one spot for getting lucky!”


4 - Turbosound TQ-315 speakers
3 - EAW SB250 subwoofers
4 - EAW MK2399 two-way speakers
2 - EAW SB1000zRi subwoofers
4 - Crest Audio CC 4000 amplifiers
1 - Biamp Nexia digital processor
DJ Booth
2 - Pioneer CDJ-1000 digital turntables
2 - Technics 1200 turntables
1 - Pioneer DJM-500 mixer
Monitors: JBL EON

4 - Martin Professional MAC 250 Krypton moving heads
3 - High End Systems Dataflash AF1000 strobes
1 - Martin Professional LightJockey controller


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Copyright 2006 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2006 TESTA Communications