If you've hit the town lately you'll likely notice a trend among some of the most successful nightspots: Smaller is better.
Some blame the recession. Others point to an increasing desire to connect on a more personal level after eight hours of staring down a computer monitor.
In New York you'll find no shortage of mega-clubs such as Marquee and Amnesia, but smaller clubs seem to be the ones garnering all the hype.
The Hollywood club Hemingway's takes the quintessential dance club and turns it into an intimate drinking lounge.
That includes newcomer
, a subterranean lounge space near Soho House in New York's Meatpacking District where Matt Abramcyk, one of the owners of Beatrice Inn, converted a Civil War-era bank vault into a somewhat clandestine ground zero for local media darlings. The nondescript doorway, grimy staircase and ramshackle decor makes it look like an artists colony after a nuclear apocalypse, and the ascetic lounge and long bar means the space won't be holding any jam sessions -- although things are most definitely jammed on most weekend nights. Still, guests praise the intimate atmosphere of the space and low-key approach, which brings a more familiar and friendly vibe to the traditionally cold and isolated world of dance clubs fixated on VIP booths and bottle service.
Those who like a bit more moonlight are making their way to Soho's newest bar, known simply as
. (It's atop the James Hotel.) The comfy-cool space, with fireplace and one-room lounge, could have gone the dance club route and maximized its outdoor pool deck. Instead, the club manages to be the anti-Boom Boom Room in terms of door policy and style. Managers have made a point to keep things intimate and welcoming, with a no-nonsense door policy and professional following that flock on these colder nights to a roaring fireplace while coddling cocktails infused with homegrown herbs. Fans include actor James Franco, who is in no way connected to the James or even Jimmy ownership.
Hollywood also has no shortage of large-scale dance and nightclubs, but the same trend has struck here, so in recent years they have been scaled down to more intimate spaces, and sometimes even subdivided into separate venues. Located in part of the former Ivar, where Hugh Hefner and Paris Hilton danced almost a decade before,
takes a quintessential dance club and turns it into an intimate drinking lounge from the owners of Teddy's at the Hollywood Roosevelt. Bookshelves lined in vintage titles and rustic wood floors give the feel of a Depression-era speakeasy, but with a too-cool Hollywood nightlife crowd infused with TV celebrities and the occasional superstar.
The Sunset Strip is now home to
, which is more of a restaurant than nightclub. While Soho House still maintains a stranglehold on the city's A-List, Eveleigh -- pronounced E-ver-lee -- has been one of the first to lure some away. A garden entry at the space, opposite celeb-favored Il Sole restaurant in the former home of a Kenneth Cole, leads to a cozy main dining area with center drinking bar and partially exposed kitchen. Rustic plank floors and vintage bar top makes it feel as though the space has been here for years. The cozy barn-inspired design includes a massive backyard deck with banquette dining and tented roof to ward out the occasional Los Angeles rainstorm.
In Miami, a city that's replaced L.A. as the "bigger-is-better" nightlife capital, clubs such as Mansion and Cameo continue to pack in the masses for lavish weekend parties. The owner of LIV nightclub at the Fountainebleu recently bucked the trend with the debut of
. While in a former restaurant space and not exactly small, the lounge is more intimate than most. It features a circle of bottle-service sofas and loungers facing an oversize DJ podium that's managed to sign some of house music's top mixers for weekly events. The club also incorporated a boutique pool experience for Sunday outdoor lounge parties similar to those that dominate summers on the Las Vegas strip.
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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.