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Nightlife Movers & Shakers Talk 'Miami Renaissance'

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- After 18 years of shooting parties and events around South Florida, Seth Browarnik, a celebrity photographer, isn't kidding about that.

"There are two things I know best: photography and nightlife," Browarnik said to a crowd at the Perez Art Museum (PAMM) recently.

In fact, he knows the after-dark scene so well, he invited five of Miami's nightlife veterans to PAMM one recent evening to talk about the influence of nightlife on "the modern renaissance of Miami."

CBS4's Lisa Petrillo sat down with some of the most well-known men in the nightclub business as well as the nights moderator, filmmaker Alfred Spellman.

She asked Browarnik,"What does this panel represent to you ?"

"It represents people that have made a big impact. It's not everybody, but a big impact in Miami and culture and literally why we are sitting here today," he said.

"We're going to start in the early 1990's when the modern renaissance of South Beach began. Through much of the 80's, South Beach was a disaster area for most part. You had depressed property values and old people and not much nightlife and not much life at all," said Spellman.

Club owners Chris Paciello and David Grutman were first on the scene in the early 90's when house music took off and a change was coming.

"In November of 1995 , the same weekend as The Delano opened, I opened a club called Liquid. It was pretty successful to say the least," said Paciello.

Grutman started out as a bartender and then ran the successful Opium Group of clubs in the early 1990's. In 2008, he opened his own goldmine, LIV at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach . It is one of the top 10 most successful nightclubs in the U.S. raking in a reported 40 million a year!

Petrillo asked, "So how has 1993 to 2008 to now, how has the club scene changed?"

"It became more corporate than it did when you opened and it's a real business. "Liquid" out of the gates was insane. "LIV" and "Story" and how Chris does his new clubs is different. It's not the wild wild west. It's a lot more corporate," said Grutman.

Petrillo asked, "So you were running by the seat of your pants at the time?"

"Yeah, it was a mom and pop thing. You'd open them and you'd shoot from the hip. Nowadays, it's such big business that there's a structure to nightlife now," said Paciello.

When Paciello opened "Liquid," it was the Madonna years and of course Gianni Versace.

"Sylvester Stallone moved here, then obviously Gianni Versace bought the Amsterdam Hotel on Ocean Drive and turned it into his into his own home. So you had all these celebrities moving to South Beach and to Miami in the early 90's that really set the stage for this scene," said Spellman.

"So compared to Las Vegas, New York , Los Angeles, where do you think Miami ranks," asked Petrillo.

"We set the trend for those cities . They look to us to see what we do and then they actually try to mimic what we do, with a casino pocketbook," said Grutman.

All had a part in Miami's past and are carrying it forward into the present and future as Miami continues to shine and grow in the nightlife spotlight.

Petrillo asked, "What is best thing about what you do?"

"I make people happy and I give people that chance to really let loose and have fun," said Grutman. "But, it's hard work, you have to stay ahead of the game. You are only as good as your last party."


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