iDesign used Color Kinetics LED & Coemar moving lights.
New club rewrites the Washington Avenue story.
Photos by Dan Vidal
Over the years, Washington Avenue has been the address of the most infamous and beloved dance nightclubs in Miami Beach: crobar, Level, KGB, Shadow Lounge, to name just a few. Recently, however, the nature of this boulevard has changed dramatically, and not for the better.
The music changed, the clubs changed, and the crowd definitely changed. Gone is the eclectic, equal-opportunity vibe of the past, replaced by thug chic. The hipsters, models, drag queens and slumming celebs who once prowled the sidewalks were largely run off by packs of wannabe gangstas of various flavors.
“When I first joined the team, I was skeptical because of the neighborhood,” admits Eddy Guerra, promotional guru of new 7,000-square-foot boutique nightclub Ink. A prominent figure in the south Florida club scene, Guerra has years of experience working in various capacities at Miami megaclubs like Space and Pawn Shop, so he certainly understood the challenges of opening an upscale venue in a formerly unsavory area.
But fortunately, Ink – which takes its design inspiration from tattoo art (heck, “Miami Ink” is just up the block) – seems to have been launched at the right time, if not the right place.
Outside, Ink looks like a seedy tattoo parlor with some unusually expensive vehicles parked out front. Inside, it’s wall-to-wall beautiful people, lush lighting, and pumping sound. Women dance on the tables, the DJs spin snarky Timberlake mash-ups, and the cast of “Entourage” is known to party it up in the hip-hop room (a case of nightlife imitating art?).
Ink’s welcoming layout was conceived and created by Miami Beach-based Telesco Associates (nightclub-design.com), an established architectural firm that specializes in nightclub design. Tom Telesco, a former club owner himself, is the man behind the look and feel of many of SoBe’s legendary nightspots, including crobar, Bash, Liquid, and Living Room. More recently, Telesco has worked on high-profile south Florida venues like Nocturnal, Studio A, and Tootsie’s Cabaret.
The interior design was entrusted to Carola Pimental of Assure Interiors (assureinteriors.com), the same firm responsible for some swanky residential spaces on nearby Fisher Island. Ink’s edgy tattoo parlor visuals are offset by plenty of soft touches, like well-upholstered, user-friendly furniture.
“Behind every single table is a place to get up and dance,” Guerra explains. “We’ve even got cubbyholes built into the counters so women have a safe place to put their purses. It keeps everything neat and clean.”
The wall and floor treatments seem more five-star hotel than SoBe nightspot, too. “It’s all a matter of the materials you use in your club,” says owner Dimitri Fragoulias (Grass, Miami). “You’ve got to create the right mood if you want to attract the right crowd.”
“I’ve never seen another club with tile on the floor,” Guerra observes. “With carpet, you never get the smell out.”
To further enhance the venue’s olfactory appeal, Ink has been equipped with scent dispensers, which keep the place smelling like an English garden, not a French brothel. “You’re exciting all of the senses at the same time,” says Guerra.
Even the restrooms have been given the full first-class treatment, with frosted glass doors, slate walls, and designer sinks.
Scent dispensers make Ink smell as good as it looks.
Everything Is Illuminated
In keeping with the boutique nightclub approach, Ink’s lighting needed to be special, too. The owners wanted a low-maintenance, energy-efficient system that could provide basic task lighting during the day, sophisticated ambiance at night, and dancefloor effects on demand. “There aren’t that many people who can do LED lighting right in Miami,” notes Fragoulias. The logical choice was Michael Meacham of Miami Beach-based iDesign (idesignproductions.com), whose work has been nominated for a 2007 Club World Award (Diesel, Pittsburgh) and featured in numerous local nightclubs, including Pawn Shop, Shine and Space.
In order to get the venue ready in time for its scheduled opening, Meacham began the lighting design process while the club was still under heavy construction. “We never really saw the space. We started from the drawings,” he explains. He roughed out a basic lighting design, then determined the details with Martin Professional ShowDesigner. Besides saving time and money, this “virtual installation” allowed the iDesign team to hide most of the system wiring. “Everything was pulled through before they put the ceilings in; before the drywall went up,” Meacham notes. “It’s a super-clean install.”
The original Ink concept was more ultra-lounge than its present boutique nightclub incarnation, and the Meacham’s initial lighting design reflected that cozier artistic direction. “We didn’t want to go heavy on the moving lighting,” he remembers. “But this is Miami. The ultra-lounges sound great in concept, but they usually end up going more nightclub.”
Eventually, the decision was made to add more energy with some Coemar iSpots and Martin Atomic strobes. The iSpot 150 moving heads proved particularly effective. “It’s a relatively inexpensive light, but its wide beam angle works quite well in smaller spaces,” notes Meacham. “For a 150W fixture, it’s intense. It stands up to most other 250W fixtures, and it’s got a 6,000-hour lamp.”
But most of Ink’s visual impact comes from clever programming of the many Color Kinetics iCove LED fixtures. The Behringer BCF 2000 B-Control MIDI control interface (another Meacham favorite) gives operators direct, hands-on access to different looks. “We’re able to shift the mood of the club via color and intensity,” he says. “You can send washes and flashes from one end of the room to the other.”
Hang It + Bang It
Like the club’s multi-functional lighting, Ink’s audio system had to be able to handle a range of intended uses. To accommodate different musical formats and DJ styles, sound specialist Daniel Gerber of Miami-based Evolution Entertainment (evolutionmiami.com) used proven components that could rock the house without breaking the budget.
“They wanted the system balanced for house music in the front room, and more for hip-hop in the back room, so those were the important factors when choosing the different cabinets,” Gerber explains. To maximize the available floor space and maintain a tidy, boutique appearance, Gerber specified relatively compact enclosures and kept the cabinet clutter to a minimum. “We tried to fly everything except the subwoofers,” he notes.
Gerber used a combination of subs: direct-radiating EAW SB180z cabinets for the VIP area, and long-throw EAW LA400 bent bass horns for the dancefloor. Three-way EAW ASR695e full-range speakers were strategically placed to pump up the volume without drowning out orders at the bar. “We also used EAW DCT1 Avalon tweeter arrays for added clarity,” he says.
Amps are a mixture of Ashly, Crown, and QSC, with a pair of Rane RPM 26z digital processors: one for the main room and one for the hip-hop room. “The main idea was to do all of the processing in one unit,” says Gerber. “[The RPM 26z] has six different outputs, and each one gets its own sound treatment, so you can get the ideal EQ for each area.”
It’s that kind of attention to detail that sets Ink apart from lesser venues in the neighborhood, and assures patrons of a quality experience at every event. Thanks to its well-designed systems, as well as innovative promotions and professional management, this Miami Beach nightspot is turning a tidy profit and helping to revitalize Washington Avenue at the same time.