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Nightlife

The next big thing

Miami’s Opium Group to bring Prive to the people: a Weekly exclusive

Xania Woodman

Saturday, October 6, 12:30 a.m.

The line outside is 10 deep in every direction, and the scene inside is just as wild. A cocktail server tops off my glass of Veuve and moves on. Behind me, the flames of a contemporary fireplace lick in vain at the chandelier that dangles just out of reach, while ahead of me, the main bar soars, taking with it two vacuum elevator/go-go booths. There is no defined dance floor, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from dancing amid and atop the VIP booths clustered at the center of Miami’s Set nightclub.

Did I not mention that I’m in South Beach?

“In Miami, we have no dance floors,” says renowned nightclub designer François Frossard, gesturing Frenchly toward the throng of bodies occupying the opulent space he’s created out of Pucci fabric, leopard carpet, faux-croc embossed leather, crystal and fire. Frossard will bring Set’s “old Hollywood” design to Vegas’ Planet Hollywood in the space formerly occupied by Curve nightclub, though under the name Privé, one of Opium Group’s two most recognizable brands. “All five clubs are eventually coming to Vegas,” says Opium Group’s emissary to Las Vegas, managing partner Justin Levine. The Living Room is coming with Privé, a space is being sought for the megaclub Mansion right now, and Opium Garden and Set will at some point migrate.

I clink glasses with Opium Group Las Vegas’ co-managing directors Greg Jarmolowich and Frank Tucker, congratulating them on their new adventure. With their combined 40 years in the industry (Jarmolowich, 11; Tucker, 29), I know that our first Miami nightlife installation is in good hands. Joining them in this project is Vegas-by-way-of-Chicago’s own Todd Rubin as director of marketing and VIP services, assistant GM Mason Thibodeau and bar manager Patrick Haggerty. In fact, an almost entirely Vegas crew will man this westerly outpost of the Opium Group brand, owners Roman Jones and Eric and Francis Milon trusting Jarmolowich and Tucker to translate their unique corporate culture to the Vegas audience.

Entirely unique. “It’s a culture that’s not present in Vegas right now,” says Jarmolowich, speaking about the group’s rock-star mentality, where, as Levine puts it, “If you’re not spraying champagne in the club, you’re in trouble.” No cash registers (not at first), no velvet rope maze, no purposeless celebrity hosts and a dress code that can only be described as “discretion of the door.” Not seeking to redefine nightlife (unless throwing a good party is an innovation), Privé and the Living Room will maintain a “controlled chaos,” as Rubin puts it.

On a super-early hard-hat tour of the Vegas venues, I noted immediately that while the Living Room has retained some of its former layout, Curve is gone. New escalators will whisk you up from a casino-floor entrance and deliver you into a long hallway. Passing a giant floor-to-ceiling lamp, complete with lampshade, you enter Privé’s 12,000-square-foot main room with just a small lounge further right, a convex semicircular bar and an open-air patio straight ahead. Continuing left, Privé’s amphitheater-style VIP seating puts an oval dance floor at the bottom of three elevations, each 10 inches up from the last.

A second rotunda incorporates Miami’s elevator go-go booths, while to the left, space has been borrowed from the 3,000-square-foot Living Room to create a VIP alcove/stage. The DJ booth occupies the furthest wall along with a second bar; there’s not a single bad seat in the house. A custom Funktion One sound system will deliver an ever-changing lineup of musical genres, “smashed-up” as Levine puts it, or “intelligently backed into one another,” as Jarmolowich does.

Back at Set’s bar, Frossard pulls a cigarette from his pack in anticipation of his next craving and perhaps his next project; he’s simultaneously working on Mansion New York. He expects Privé and the Living Room to be nearly done by the end of this month. “I never miss a deadline,” he says with a smirk, silently congratulating himself for neglecting to mention when that might be. “Late 2007” is what I hear, but I ask anyway. He shrugs deeply in a typically French way, smiles and turns his attention to that cigarette. Our interview is over; it’s time to party.

[Check back for an extended, online-only version of this article.]

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Xania Woodman thinks globally and parties locally. And frequently. E-mail her at xania@thecircuitlv.com and visit thecircuitlv.com to sign up for Xania’s free weekly newsletter.

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