Anyone who's been out and about on South Beach over the past decade or so has caught Conrad Gomez. Back when the Beach was still something of an ill-kept secret, he was in on Home Cookin' (at Groove Jet) and Hercules (at Lua) -- and that was him on the door (with Gilbert Stafford) when Fat Black Pussycat moved over to Liquid. More recently, he and his SMAC partners put on The Show at Crobar, not to mention half a dozen other of the best nights out ever. Now, in addition to manning the gates at LIV, Gomez is at Klutch, and Niteside asked him what all the hot fuss was about.
First off, what's SMAC and how'd it spring into action? Initially, I was part of a group of promoters that broke up and two of the original partners -- me and Bill Spector -- joined newcomers Angel Febres and Mo Garcia. Then the four of us began Thursday's "The Show" at Crobar under the acronym S.M.A.C. which of course, was created by our first initials -- Spector, Mo, Angel, Conrad. (Currently, SMAC is Conrad Gomez, Bill Spector, Angel Febres, Tal Savion and Ramiro Restrepo.)
Before SMAC, you, Bill Spector and Mark Leventhal were in on some of South Beach's longest-running one-nighters, including Hercules (at Lua) and Home Cookin' (at Groove Jet). What was it about those nights that you think got 'em so poppin'? The reason these events were so poppin' is because of the production behind them. We gave concepts to the parties. They were locally run, no attitude at the doors. Our clientele was skate-rats, models and surfers. One of the distinctions at the time was our music -- we were the only club playing hip-hop, which was unheard of in those days. Home Cookin' had so many aspects -- we had barbeques, served Mikey's in brown paper bags, had live acts such as South City Funk Mob with DJ Sugar. We gave the crowd something that they were never exposed to. It was really about the good times. We also fused two cities -- local DJs and hip-hop DJs from NYC such as Mark Ronson and Stretch Armstrong. The whole point is that the parties had cool concept of laid back and local. That's what is missing today. It was a different time back then., people just wanted to have good time and forget about all that poser bull----.
From Lua and Groove Jet you went to Liquid and then Crobar, both of which were considerably larger in size. What was required to make the leap from relatively intimate to downright mega? The intimate vibe we created was so detailed that it was easy to blow it up and market for the masses. The larger venues allowed us to cater to more clientele and generate more revenue. This was huge because with more money we just added more production. We were able to bring bigger talent like DJ AM, Funkmaster Flex and Kid Capri. The masses were perplexed with all of our creativity -- it was the first time they had been exposed to it. It was like a being in a movie surrounded by drag queens with barbeque food and outrageous music.
SMAC's now partnered-up at Klutch. What made you finally decide to take an ownership role? I went into ownership because it was the next step for me to take. I began as a barback, jumped in as bartender and moved on to manager. Soon after I became a promoter and door personality at Fat Black Pussy Cat with the great Gilbert Stafford. I've been in every position inside a club, becoming an owner just made sense.
At Klutch, SMAC has teamed up with noted nightlife impresario Joe Delaney. What's it like working alongside such a figure and how did that partnership spring about? I've known Joe for about 10 years now from working in the industry. We had crossed paths a couple times and finally worked together at Spirits at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. When we were asked to re-open Klutch he called SMAC to partner up with him. It's been educating working with him -- I'm more involved behind the scene now.
What's it about Klutch that sets the club apart from the usual mega-clubs? Klutch is different from all other mega-clubs because it is run by promoters, not just owners. Typically clubs are run by business savvy people that don't really know what it takes to make a party successful. We understand the variety of positions and rolls needed at a club for it to be booming because we've all worked in them.
You got your start behind the bar at New York's MK, which remains one of the Big Bad Apple's most fabled venues. What did you pick up working there that helped when you jumped to Miami? MK was the s---. I learned about operations -- they were always on-point there. I know the back-bone of nightlife because of MK. One thing I was able to pick up there was the ability to recognize diverse groups and cater to them. There were always the Artsy-Indie-Culture kids, celebs, cool-downtown scene and the cheesy uptight scene. In order for things to work smoothly you have to be able to recognize these types of peeps, if not things will not look pretty.
What do you think are some of the main differences between NY and Miami nightlife anyway? NY has more diverse venues. You can have a dive bar and it be a huge success with A-listers and trendsetters. But if you bring that to Miami, it would [flop] because the Miami crowd cares too much about aesthetics and glamour.
When you're not Klutched-up, where do you most like to hang out? You can find me on my bicycle. I race -- I'm either training, racing or riding all over Florida.
What's coming up for Conrad Gomez? I'm working with the cats from LIV (MMG) to open a small speakeasy off of 14th Court between Alton and West Ave.