This is The Gatekeepers, in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of the hottest and hardest-to-get tables.
[Photo Credit: Ryan Troy of World Red Eye]
Conrad Gomez is one of the head doormen behind the velvet ropes at none other than the world-famous nightclub, LIV at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. He has spent almost 20 years in Miami nightlife from all aspects of the biz, with previous gatekeeper stints in New York and at the Sundance Film Festival. Here he dishes on what it takes to get in to the most sought-after experience on South Beach.
It's midnight on a Saturday night. What's the wait to get in?
Tables get priority. If you have a reservation, you walk right in. If not, depending on what you look like and the guy to girl ratio in the group, the wait could be five minutes to-- not coming in. If you're jerk-offs to us, we'll make you wait all night. It's all about how you conduct yourself.
What about earlier in the night?
The earlier the better, especially when there's a big DJ and it's the weekend. You want to get there when we open the doors. We have pre-sale tickets and get capped at capacity quick on those nights. Be there right at 11p.m. to lower the wait time.
Is there anything one can do to make the wait shorter? How about if you're slipped some cash?
[laughs] Nah. Just be polite, don't be shouting out my name, pulling on my hair and suit. Dress fashionably. If you have a bombshell girlfriend, well, that helps too.
What pisses you off the most when people are trying to get in?
Pulling on my jacket. Saying 'YO' to get my attention. And name dropping. The best is when people come up to me saying: 'I know Conrad... Conrad told me we could get in... Do you know Conrad?' I go, 'yeah a**hole, it's me.'
How many tables are available on a given night?
We have 50 to 65 tables, depending on the event we can split them to make two. Those are for the really huge nights, like with Calvin Harris or one of those guys, when we will need all the table space we can get because it sells out.
Who are some of your favorite Celebrity club-goers?
One of the coolest guys I ever dealt with was Woody Harrelson, but that was at Sundance a few years ago. Also, I'm a huge cyclist and into racing so when the Giro Italia winner Gilberto Simoni came to LIV that was a great moment for me and he was very cool, we took a photo together. Then you've got your usual suspects who come pretty frequently: Lil Wayne, Wilmer Valderrama, Michael Bay...
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables left or the club is at capacity?
It's tough. I just tell them we're at capacity and to wait 5 minutes until I get the green light to let them in and they'll get first priority. And I apologize for having to make them wait.
What's the most outrageous offer from someone that you've had?
I've had people come in not dressed properly and offer to buy the clothes off our backs or another person which always is amusing. I've also had people offer me their iPhones, or they offer to 'take care of me and my girl'. These guys are all 'come to my store, my restaurant, sleep with my wife'- ha! Just kidding about that last one!
Any requests you couldn't accommodate?
Yeah. When people come in with a big group of guys like a bachelor party, or if they come in shorts. That just cannot fly. It's not quantity, it's QUALITY.
What's been your favorite night at LIV?
When Q-Tip performed two weeks ago on a Wednesday night.
How does the gatekeeper life in the Magic City fare?
I love it. I work with great people like Keith Paciello, who's been a friend of mine now for a while. From the first days when I worked as a busboy in New York, I knew it was the business for me-- the fast pace, the people, the energy, the music.
When you're not at LIV, where are you enjoying yourself?
At my bar, Foxhole. It's a great chill spot. A hidden bar, built by locals for locals, very anti-nightclub, ironically. It's the other extreme of LIV, the complete opposite.
What's your most important gatekeeper tool?
My keen eye. There can be 600 people outside the club, but I can spot the ones that need to be in.