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Nightlife op Bobby Brandt was not only present at South Beach's re-creation, he's one of a handful that actually helped make it happen. Shadow Lounge, The Spot, Brandt's Break, Chili Pepper -- the list of legendary joints he owned and/or operated has left him a legacy. After more recent stints everywhere from River Lounge to Martini Bar, Brandt's brought his game back to South Beach, this time at Gemma Lounge, undoubtedly one of our town's most charming establishments. Niteside checked in for the lowdown.
You've recently signed on at Gemma Lounge. Can you tell us a bit about the joint? Gemma is truly a hidden treasure on Lincoln Road. It's located right above Rosinella, and it's the epitome of a chic-sophisticated Miami Beach lounge. The balcony overlooks the Road and provides a smoke-free environment inside, where we've added a stage and bumped up the sound to make it perfect for live music. At 300 people it's good-sized but intimate. And some recent renovations have made it even classier, yet still comfortable.
What's on the new agenda? We're featuring live music on Thursdays and Fridays, including such great talents as Nil Lara, who'll be kicking off Labor Day weekend this Friday. Saturdays we've got the legendary Mark Leventhal in the booth, bringing back to the Beach that pure dance music feel he's famous for. Once season starts we'll be adding quality house DJs to the different nights and on the second week of September we're launching a local's rock night, with a weekly house band Jacin Paul.
Why did you decide to get involved there anyway? I feel that Miami Beach needs a live music venue of this size and one dollar per hour parking right behind us to offers a great deal too. The addition of New World Symphony's new digs and the quality pedestrian traffic on Lincoln Road makes it a dream location.
You've been an active Miami nightlife operative for some time now on both sides of the causeways. How has the afterdark changed since you started? The old days of the Beach were predominantly paparazzi-free with tons of celebrities and supermodels enjoying a small town without hassle. Today the level of competition has brought the star stalkers, VIP band street teams, mobile billboards and massive guerilla marketing machines with skies full of air plane banners. It was a lot easier to have one of the few places that locals recommended to tourists.
Of all the nights you've presided over, what were some of the most memorable? Wow where do I begin. Well, The Spot's Harley block parties with Mickey Rourke flipping cheese burgers and David Bowie performing at Chili Pepper is a good start. I'd have to add Shadow Lounge during Winter Music Conference with the likes of Paul Oakenfold, Carl Cox and Eric Morillo, not to mention some stellar pool games at Brandt's Break too. Out of town, I'd say Chili Pepper in Atlanta with the Gold Medal-winning women's soccer team stains the brain -- so does the U.S. Open event we threw for the Disco Inferno party at the Roxy in NYC.
Would you say there's a secret recipe for a great night out? Great food, great music, great company and getting home safely.
You're also involved with a site called promotemysong.com. What's that all about? It is a website for unsigned artists and the entire music industry. Think of it as a modern version of a record label with the ability to sell your music as a single or a ring tone, promote yourself, find music industry services, collaborate on a song online with other musicians from all over the world, post classified ads, blog, chat, find events, etc. ... It is a one-stop shop with all the bells and whistles. We also have an A&R Vault that we put the best artists in to show to the top record labels. Fans can vote to encourage Vault placement, and that puts an "American Idol" online opportunity to be seen be discovered.
When you're not handling action at Gemma, where in town do you most dig hanging out? First, I love hanging with my wife Phoebe and our 20-month-old son, Gunner Quinn. With the family, Lincoln Road is a great option. My son can go crazy running up and down and my wife and I can grab a cold beer wherever he stops. Otherwise, I love seeing my friends at Tommy Pooch's party on Tuesdays at the Delano. For a great casual vibe and the freshest seafood I go to a local spot, Garcia's on the Miami River. If you want the absolute best, authentic Japanese food go to Hiro Yakesan in North Miami. It's amazing. I had my birthday dinner there.
What's coming up for Bobby Brandt? I am working on some great venues in the downtown area. ... If I've learned anything in Miami it's keep your mouth shut until the contract is signed! In addition, in the last year I've formed a bar management/consulting company. Luckily, I've landed great clients like Skyline Lounge, Epic Hotel and Pure Ultra Lounge and it has opened many nationwide doors.