NiteTalk: Rokbar’s Keith Paciello Keeps It Real

Keith Paciello

When Keith Paciello and Alfred Spellman closed Bella Rose, the locals were at a loss. After all, no other joint had made such a point of putting the neighborhood ahead of the bottle crowd. But with Paciello back in action at Rokbar, they can all celebrate the fact that the loss didn't last long.

Word is you're now an owner at Rokbar. How does it feel to again have a stake in a hotspot? It's great to be back in the game after shutting down Bella Rose because I think nightlife in this city remains stale. The vibe and energy in Rokbar is different than any other spot on the Beach.

What made you decide to take a vested interest in Rokbar? Actually, I was at Rokbar when it opened it 2003. I helped open it with Sean Saladino, Roberto Caan, Philip Sylvester and Jonas. So it was really like coming home for me. I've always loved the space and thought that I could bring a fresh approach.

Bella Rose made a lot of noise in a very short time. Why do you think it swung so high so fast? Because it was a total throwback and embraced what nightlife was all about. No one had opened a joint like that in years. We were welcoming back old nightlife characters and friends and re-educating people at the same time. There's no place else on the Beach that you see the mix of people we had at Bella Rose.

Why did you decide to shut it down? Beach nightlife had migrated up to Collins Park and it was difficult to operate just off Washington Ave. Not to mention we opened in April 2008 and that fall it seemed the world was about to end. The 2008-2009 season basically didn't happen. It's amazing we were able to shine as bright as we did for the 18 months that we did, and I think that's a tribute to the people that got it.

Before your initial stint at Rokbar you were running Liquid with your brother Chris. What did you take from that experience that you still use? The experience of working with Chris combined with my time in Peter Gatien's clubs in New York shaped my view of what nightlife should be. I learned how important a vibe was in a room. Too many operators these days are so focused on bottle sales that they forget the thing that drove bottle sales at Liquid was the vibe, the energy, the lights, the staff. Chris treated his staff like family, and I don't see that happen in too many places on the Beach these days.

How about when you were hooked up with SMAC. Was there something about being on the promotions side of the equation that you found particularly useful? Bill Spector and Conrad have deep roots in Beach nightlife. Conrad was our doorman at Liquid for years, and I put them together with Angel and Mo. That team had the locals' scene. I loved working with those guys; they remain my friends to this day. In fact, Conrad is now working the door with me at Rokbar.

Hands on in all these hotspots surely gave you some insight into the machinations of the night. What's the secret to a dynamite night out? Creating a vibe where people can go get lost in the night. Forget about their problems and go out, let loose. The entire club, from lights to music to staff to design and service should be built around the idea that people are coming to have fun and escape. Escapism -- who doesn't want that these days?

Is there one thing a club owner should never ever do? I've always treated people the way I want to be treated. I treat everyone with respect and I get it back. You can't forget that you're the host there to make sure everyone is having a good time.  It's easy to get lost and forget that.

What's coming up for Keith Paciello?
I'm just focused on what's happening now, blessed to have the opportunities I've had in life and looking forward to putting my stamp on Rokbar.

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