Behind the Velvet Rope

Few people will disagree that Miami truly is the “magic city.” And what makes the city so magical is its very happening nightlife. With its warm weather, beautiful people, spicy food, and incredible music, Miami has all the ingredients for some of the hottest night clubs in the U.S.

Conveying a Las Vegas-style vibe (although they were in the game long before their competitors), Miami has two distinct nightlife scenes.

The more exclusive, and what Miami is internationally known for, is the South Beach scene, with huge traditional nightclubs like Amesia, LIV, Wall, Mynt Lounge, Mansion, and Set. These are the clubs where the rope isn’t just velvet but ironclad, and unless you’re good-looking (not just beautiful but super-model beautiful) or you’ve got a lot of cash to burn (average drink prices for the cheapest cocktail are $12 and bottle service may be the same price as a new car), you will not likely get past the door. 

The other, in the downtown Wynwood area, is what South Beach was like in the 1980s, with a fearless, experimental, and an underground atmosphere that is serious about music. The clubs include Electric Pickle, Bardot, Grand Central, Vagabond, and the granddaddy of them all, Space. While much less glamorous, and a little dicey in spots, the scene is filled with live acts and DJ’s that are hoping to be the next big thing. 

Despite the hipsters who’ve sworn off the battle of getting into the South Beach scene, and instead take pride in traversing darker and lesser-known holes-in-the-wall, the big name clubs are still making a lot of money in Miami as people will always want what they can’t have.

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And it’s the doormen, who control the guest list, and are the real rock stars in this city. One of them, Juan Carlos Cordero from Madrid, Spain, used to be on the opposite side before becoming the person in control of that exclusive red rope. 

Before moving to Miami in 2000, Cordero stood at the doors of clubs in the island of Ibiza in Spain. 

“It’s different there. First off, the clubs hold close to 4,000 people, they charge a cover, so bottle service isn’t the main thing, and they party harder—clubs don’t close until 9 a.m.,” Cordero says. 

The job of a doorman in Miami is to get the best looking and most flush wallets inside the club and keep the riff-raff out. Cordero has worked the ropes at all of the most exclusive clubs–Mokai, Set, Amnesia, Mynt, and currently, Wall.  

“People may insult us or call us names when they get mad at not being allowed in, but that doesn’t really affect us," he said. "I never ignore a person because that makes them even angrier. I try to be polite.”

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Cordero went on to say that men should make an effort to dress up, suggesting that a suit, nice shirt, and shoes make all the difference, especially if he doesn’t know you. For women, Cordero says heels are better than flats, and that flip-flops and jeans are the kiss of death.

Aside from looking the part, Cordero looks for nice people who won’t cause any issues either. But that doesn’t mean drama doesn’t happen at the door, where Cordero says every night there are usually two to three, especially when people aren’t on the list, no one knows them, or it’s a crowded night. 

Celebrities, of course, always get in but contrary to what people may think, no woman has ever offered Cordero sex in order to get into the club. “I’m not that lucky. And I’m married, so I’m staying out of trouble.”

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Of all the clubs in Miami the must see is LIV, the country’s second-largest grossing club. A sight to behold, LIV represents the Roman numeral “54.” Pronounced “live,” the clubs name is a reference to “1954,″ the year the Fontainebleau Hotel first opened.

As “La Ronde” in the Fontainebleau in the 1950s, where Sinatra and the Brat Pack were frequent visitors, the club is already a hotspot for celebrities.  Since then, the club has expanded with a billion-dollar renovation. At the site’s 2008 re-opening, four buildings were transformed in the Fontainebleau complex to create the LIV of today. Hoping to expand on their success, the owners of LIV have bought half of the interest in Club Amnesia as well.

Nowadays, stars like Shakira, Luis Miguel, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kim Kardashian, J Lo, and George Clooney are regular fixtures at the club. Celebrities have also taken over LIV for reasons other than partying, including Sofia Vergara who used it as the site for her 2012 Super Bowl Pepsi commercial and Pitbull who performed his Dr. Pepper concert event there.

And if you are in Miami any time soon and looking to get into the hot night scene, don't forget to dress to impress. And be ready to part with a good chunk of change.

Rebekah Sager is a writer in San Diego, Calif.  You can reach her via Twitter @ShoplocalSD

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Rebekah Sager is a writer and editor for She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @rebekah_sager.