Former Vagabond space in downtown Miami to open as 'Steam,' an interactive theatrical nightclub, alongside a speakeasy bar and outdoor concert space


New nightlife venues Steam and Railroad Blues open this month in downtown Miami's Omni area

Steam Miami nightclub

By Ina Paiva Cordle | The Miami Herald

Two entrepreneurs are teaming up to bring new entertainment venues — a nightclub with ongoing performances, a speakeasy bar with live music and an outdoor concert space — to help enliven the area just north of downtown Miami.

Friends and business partners Russell Bruce and Anthony Moretti, who have decades of experience in the bar, nightclub and live music scenes in New York and Los Angeles, plan to open the nightclub, Steam, on Aug. 14, and speakeasy bar, Railroad Blues, on Aug. 21.

“We didn’t want to stop going to nightclubs, so we’re opening one,” joked Moretti, 42.

Designed to appear like an industrial-era factory, Steam promises an unusual ambience with performers appearing randomly on a chain-curtained catwalk stage that encircles the club and characters swinging from the ceiling and mingling among the crowd to create an interactive experience.

The goal is to create a very different night out for patrons, the owners said. Hence, the name Steam, which carries various connotations. Among them: When water boils it changes form into steam, just as club-goers will discover a new experience — and let off steam.

“It’s not a place where the music stops and the show starts,” said Bruce. 45. “It’s a club with good music, accompanied by a cast of characters. You’re going to leave the club with a ‘wow’ factor.”

Bruce and Moretti have bought the former Vagabond nightclub at 30 NE 14th Street, in the Omni area — also dubbed the Arts and Entertainment District — and are redeveloping the space. Property records show they paid $2.7 million for the building. In total, they say they’re pouring $5 million into the 17,000-square-foot property to create the three venues.

Steam will have a DJ, advanced acoustics, a bar with 100 linear feet and jewel-tone, velour-tufted, lounge seating. With a ticket charge of $10 to $20, the club will serve liquor until 5 a.m., and the performances will get edgier as the night progresses, Moretti said. Among the performers will be women dressed as housewives, wearing 1950s-style dresses made out of latex or PVC, with brightly colored hair, carrying clippers for trimming hedges, feather dusters or a pretend birthday cake.

“It’s not for the faint of heart,” Moretti said of the club, which will encompass 10,000 square feet, including the patio. “It will be a little risque.”

Railroad Blues, a separate space adjacent to Steam, will have an entirely different vibe, geared to transport patrons back to a bygone era, the partners said.

Outside, a newsstand, Railroad News, will mask the entrance. Just like in an old-fashioned speakeasy, patrons will have to provide a password to get through “the secret door,” Bruce said. (But unlike during Prohibition, they can get access to the password through social media.)

The bar will serve handcrafted cocktails from the 1920s, and offer live music — rock and New Orleans- and Mississippi-style blues.

Designed to look like a railcar, Railroad Blues is decorated with a tin ceiling, which tops old-style, two-bladed fans. It has antique mirrors, velour paneling and a wall of vintage luggage and trunks.

The third space, an outdoor amphitheater, which will be called The Backyard, will open later this fall. The plan is to host daytime festivals and live bands.

For all three venues, food trucks will be parked outside on the property, with rotating offerings of dining options, the partners said.

The new entertainment venues will add to the Omni area which is undergoing revitalization.

To the east is the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, and to the south, the planned 30-acre Miami Worldcenter mixed-use development. Nearby is a new film studio planned by the Omni Redevelopment District, said Alyce Robertson, executive director of the Miami Downtown Development Authority. Other projects nearby include Melody Tower, a 36-story mixed-use rental building under construction at the 245 NW 14th St., developed by the Melo Group. And on Biscayne Boulevard is Zaha Hadid’s planned One Thousand Museum, which is across the street from the new Perez Art Museum Miami and the yet to be completed Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science.

What is now taking place, Robertson said, is “taking the success of the areas to the east and bringing it west, and making it a lively area for entertainment.”

Just as Wynwood was revitalized when galleries, shops and restaurants opened, “you are seeing pioneers going in” to fill in the Arts and Entertainment District, she said.

Bruce and Moretti first started talking about teaming up about two years ago when Bruce moved back to Miami. Born in Cocoa Beach, he had operated three microbrewery bars and 10 coffee shops in Seattle, later moving to Los Angeles to enter the music industry. He had also lived on and off in South Florida since 1992.

Moretti, born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island, had worked as a DJ in both places, and owned several nightclubs. He moved to Miami in 2001, got involved in real estate, and has since operated several businesses, including a gym.

After deciding to combine forces, they began searching for property and formed a company, Ramp Management. They bought the former Vagabond in April from owner Carmel Ophir, and have been redesigning the space ever since.

The entrepreneurs have hired a consultant from Las Vegas, as well as a choreographer, director of operations, creative director, production manager, and music engineer to help put it all together.

They say they want to fill a void for locals, in theatrical, performance-driven nightlife venues.

“It will be like Cirque du Soleil,” Bruce said, “with an edge to it.”

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