South Florida nightlife

Not so long ago, some celebrities on the A-list such as Madonna and Stallone split for California. They took with them some of the roped-off club VIP sections that once looked like Oscar night's front row. And some of the modeling and fashion industry that once posed here left for less exposed locales like Spain.

Doomsayers said the beat had slowed down. But what they failed to remember is that the party's never over in South Florida. Nightlife this year is as scorching hot as stepping barefoot onto the area's sun-blistered summer beaches.

You can see it everywhere as girls in mini skirts and boys with tight abs strut their stuff. Like true night creatures, they avoid the day and observe an almost religious tenet that you can't be seen on the scene until after 11 p.m.

Top celebrities still shine like stars here. Visitors find Sharon Stone sipping Cuban coffee or Elton John hanging out at a dance club. It seems like everyone is dancing the night away to the flashing strobe lights and mind-blowing loud club music or swaying check to cheek in the more sedate setting of a jazz club.

Nowhere is hotter, however, than ultra-trendy South Beach. And no nightspot is larger than Level, which introduced the big room club concept in a mammoth, 44,000-sq.-ft. space that began life in 1937 as an Art Deco palace turned movie theatre.

Level has something of an identity crisis, since there's four clubs within one. The Boiler Room plays hip-hop, the Red Room spins house, and the main room showcases progressive house. Level 6 is reserved for entertaining celebrities, media moguls and special guests. Doors open at 10 p.m. and the party doesn't stop until 5 a.m., Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
1235 Washington Ave.
South Beach
(305) 532-1525
Best reason to go: Even if you can't get into the ultra-chic Level 6, have it your way from hip-hop to rock.

A distinct trend in the area is for restaurant/lounges to replace the big Level-style clubs that in the past have dominated (as noted by local pr maven Susan Scott, who keeps tabs on all this). And one of the hippest on the scene is 6 Degrees Restaurant, where has attracted not only late-night revelers but also gourmets. Continental cuisine is offered in a sultry, red-colored setting of a rare steak.
6 Degrees
685 Washington Ave.
(305) 538-2212
Best reason to go: Fine, fresh food. Combines fine dining with hip lounging.

Another of the trendiest new nightclub/restaurants is Touch. Think tropical Barbarella vibes. Think kinky touches such as orange fur on the walls and white neon columns that cast a spacey grow. A ring of white neon lights the champagne bar. The sexy atmosphere prevails with faux palm trees at the bar, and a signature red velvet swing at the entrance. You will feel like touching base here.
910 Lincoln Road
(305) 532-8003
Best reason to go: Try Chef Sean Brasel's Essencia-poached pears or cinnamon-smoked duck leg confit.

No place in South Beach, however, is sexier than Tantra. It's based on the ancient Tantric principles of self-awareness and spiritual realization. How do you accomplish that in a lounge, of all places? Abracadabra. Tantra pleases all the senses from the stunning décor to pulsating music and erotic art. There's earth (a grass floor in the VIP lounge), five, (candles), sky (a fiber optic lit-ceiling with a shooting star), and water (a water wall in the entrance foyer).
1445 Pennsylvania Ave.
(305) 672-4765
Best reason to go: Great grub such as Stone Crab and Iranian caviar served in a unique environment. Tantra, indeed.

Crobar is a shrine for serious dance music fans. It's also a place to be-seen by the beautiful set. The stars here are top international DJ's such as John Digweed and Little Louie Vega. The surroundings are all Art-Deco. Try the catwalk around the perimeter of the second level where you can sit behind curtained banquettes for stylish views of the enfolding action below.
1445 Washington Ave.
(305) 531-5027
Best reason to go: A chance for high octane partying with the beautiful people at the upstairs VIP room.

One of the hottest spots in South Beach is named after a 13th century Middle Eastern poet, Rumi. The décor is best described as a 70s modern feel with Zen influences. With soothing brown, red and orange earth tones, the supper club gives off a peaceful aura despite its in-vogue vibes. Poetry in motion.
330 Lincoln Road
(305) 672-4353
Best reason to go: Around midnight, patrons get a first-hand view of how tables are removed and the restaurant is transformed into a nightclub.

Bask in the Orange Glow - Located at the Southern most tip of South Beach, Pearl Restaurant and Champagne Lounge defines itself as the height of jet-setting sophistication. The spacey tang neon lights and orange fur walls set the atmosphere for exquisite cuisine and entertainment.
Pearl Restaurant and Champagne Lounge
1 Ocean Drive
(305) 538-1111 x2

Nikki Beach embraces the tropical landscape, the sea breezes, the palm trees, the sensuaty of warm sand. After a time, the exotic backdrop of our daily lives is forgotten. Nikki Beach is nested in the Penrods entertainment complex.
Nikki Beach
1 Ocean Drive
(305) 538-1111 x3

The décor is high-tech, but flip-flops and surfer shorts outnumber Kenneth Cole getups at The Laundry Bar, often viewed as the best gay hangout for slumming anywhere on the beach.
The Laundry Bar
721 North Lincoln Lane
(305) 531-7700
Best reason to go: The happy hour special two-for-one drinks usually good through 8 or 9 p.m. is a proper incentive for showing up on the scene early. Come alone, or with a friend.

At Kiss, performers eat fire. Patrons prefer $40 steaks. The original plan for topless waitresses was shelved in favor of dancers in skimpy outfits. The décor here includes red walls and checkerboard terrazzo floors. At 11 p.m., the restaurant becomes a nightclub.
301 Lincoln Road
(305) 695-4445
Best reason to go: Rave reviews for the steaks. You won't find better food in South Beach.

South Beach hipsters and celebrities (the Michael's…Jordan and Douglas) show up at Jimmy'z Forge (432 41st St., 305-503-9798). Another trendy club, Rain, is a sort of hybrid lounge/urban beach club that features a platoon of cabana boys dispensing padding and towels for patrons reclining on teak day beds on wheels. A very cool setting at 323 23rd Street, 305-674-7447).

Those who prefer a neighborhood feel might opt for the Lola Bar, billed as the "neighborhood bar for the world's hottest neighborhood." A hip and artsy crowd is found at 247 23rd Street, 305-695-697.

Before really tucking in, you might also check out B.E.D. (beverage, entertaining, dining). There are no tables at this nightclub/restaurant where patrons decide it's cool to dine in bed. After a late night dinner sitting, the place starts to swing as a nightclub with the usual velvet rope treatment.
929 Washington Ave.
(305) 532-9070
Best reason to go: The silk pajamas you can wear fashionably here may get you past the fashion police bouncers at the door. Even if they don't do the job, you are attitude adjusted.

Away from the Beach, in downtown Miami, Club Space has held Miami's first 24-hour liquor license. The result is a footfall-sized dance club with six individual DJ-lead rooms.
Club Space
142 NE 11th Street
(305) 372-9378
Best reason to go: After-hours parties last well past noon.

Its nightlife may be overshadowed by Miami, but you can find hot spots in other areas of South Florida. The boys left Fort Lauderdale when they tired of spring break, but left behind is a variety of nightlife.

For jazz, the city offers its small but comfortable 213 Tavern at, of course, 213 S. W. 2nd St., 954-463-6213. Rock bands are on the menu at The Chili Pepper at 200 W. Broward Blvd., 954-525-0094, and nightly DJs spin tunes at Café Iguana, 17. S. Atlantic Blvd., 954-763-7222. Bahia Cabana at 3001 Harbor Drive (954-524-1555) features top pop groups and a DJ with a setting that includes a view of the harbor.

In West Palm Beach, trendy Ta-boo at 221 Worth Ave., 561-835-3500, brings out the late night hipsters who are kept awake by a DJ.

In nearby Lake Worth, the blues are on tap at the Bamboo Room, 25 S. J St., 561-585-2583. Delray Beach's Boston's on the Beach at 40 S. Ocean Blvd., (561-278-3364) alternates between reggae and rock. In Boca Raton, night crawlers often turn up at the Ambiance Bar & Bistro, 5500 N. Federal Highway (561-988-9920) for the live band that plays anything from alternative to contemporary rock.

In the Keys, where every day is a celebration, Sloppy Joe's remains a major player in the Duval Street scene. Each June, the Key West bar supports its Ernest Hemingway heritage by hosting the annual Hemingway Look-Alike Contest Customers are welcome day and night. Wear your t-shirt. You can hear the revelers here from a block away. The drinks are generous and the dancing never stops.
Sloppy Joe's
201 Duval Street
(305) 294-5717
Best reason to go: You're in with a fun-loving crowd that doesn't care if you're a local or a tourist. Both guys and girls just want to have fun. Drink a toast to papa. His spirit is here somewhere.