Recently, you may have noticed a concerning trend in Miami’s music scene. Two of the city’s notable clubs, Heart Nightclub and Ora Nightclub, both announced their closings. While the timing of the closures can mostly be attributed to the way the Miami nightlife schedule works—it is just past Miami nightlife’s biggest week (Miami Music Week/Winter Music Conference/Ultra Music Festival)—major closings like this can send reverberations throughout the city’s music scene.
What happened? On the face of it, each nightclub has its own unique situation and reason for closing. The two-year-old Ora Nightclub likely suffered financially due to its enviable location in South Beach, where rents can be high. Like many new ventures, the startup costs can be exorbitant and can hamstring a business’ books for years.
In Heart Nightclub’s case, the reasons are even more concerning. The club had been in the midst of a legal fight with the city of Miami, local developers, and residents about things like noise violations, tactics that usually underpin a desire to remove a nightlife business from the neighborhood. Eventually, the legal costs and the constant harassment from local authorities caused Heart to eventually relent to the pressure. While extensive, verifiable public records are not readily available, it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that Heart’s neighboring clubs, E11even Miami and Club Space, are under similar pressure.
“During this past year, the clubs in our 24-hour entertainment district have been constantly attacked by new condo developers, residents, and the City of Miami,” Heart chief financial officer Michael Slyder wrote in the statement. “We have fought a good fight and spent a great deal of money on lawyers, but now it’s time for us to throw in the towel. It is quite obvious that our neighbors don’t want to compromise to resolve the issue, that real estate agents, and developers want clubs closed as they think by doing so property values will increase, and that the City is less interested in protecting nightlife and its businesses than in the past.”
However, while two closures might seem hard to draw a conclusion from, the thread connecting the pair begins to take shape upon examination.
Heart, E11even, and Space’s location in a highly trafficked area in booming downtown Miami is obviously an attractive place for developers to build their buildings, particularly with Miami’s rising housing costs and property values. So there’s a lot of motivation to try and remove the clubs.
The way they seem to have gone about this is that developers have convinced neighbors that perhaps they wouldn’t want these clubs in their neighborhoods. Wouldn’t they rather the clubs keep to their traditional haunts in South Beach where they can make all the noise they want? However, cramming all the clubs in traditional nightlife areas like South Beach has created a premium for space, especially considering the massive demand the tourism industry creates for clubs. This sends prices of real estate in those districts skyrocketing to unreasonable levels, something that Ora couldn’t keep up with.
This real estate problem doesn’t have a obvious solution because the cities of Miami and Miami Beach, and other local municipalities, seem entirely uninterested in advocating for their local nightlife businesses. The reasons for this I’ve outlined in the past, but essentially cities rely on rising property values to grow their tax base because they’re very reliant on property taxes for revenue.
Barring a wholesale restructuring of their revenue streams though, there are other options other places have taken. Cities around the world have tried out ideas like establishing offices of nightlife and nightlife mayors to advocate for nightlife businesses and serve as a counterbalance to real estate interests. Miami currently lacks this or even an initiative to create one. Perhaps now is the time.
Without changes, the tides in Miami seem to indicate more closures are on the horizon and the nightlife culture, one of the city’s main attractions, will continue to erode. Let’s try and stop that from happening.