Today isn't just another day in South Beach for Ami James and Chris
Besides holding things down at
their internationally known tattoo shop, Miami Ink, and filming an episode
for their hit TLC TV series, James and Nuñez are
rushing down the street, cameras in tow, to 423 Washington Avenue to put the finishing touches on their latest venture,
Love Hate Lounge.
This is the grand opening of their new South Beach lounge, and for both
the stress is beginning to show. "I'm freaking out," James admits with a
sly smile. 'tonight is the grand opening." Nuñez agrees,
mentioning the word "stressed" more than a few times while running
through his day's schedule thus far.
Considering their success to date, chances
are James and Nuñez can rest easy.
Chris Nuñez & Ami James
After working together
at another South Beach tattoo parlor, the two joined forces and opened their
current tattoo shop Miami Ink, and since 2005, their partnership has been
documented on the wildly popular TV series of the same name. But, today
they're taking their other passion, nightlife, and making it
part of their South Beach empire. Open four nights a week, James and
Nuñez hope Love
Hate will bring South Beach to the forefront of tattoo culture and give
their fans a look at the guys behind Miami Ink.
Tonight's opening night, how do you feel? Chris: Stressed. We have a million things to do, but after that I think
the anxiety will slow down a little. I need a drink...
How did you go from tattoo parlor to nightclub? Ami: I've been working in the nightlife [scene] for a long time, and I
just wanted to extend it into something a little different with kind of
the same crowd. I'm always going out, looking for the best party. And we
have hundreds of friends, so why not do our own spot? I've always wanted
to own a bar, so this was it. I found a spot and wanted to open bar
there, so here we go.
As long-time residents of Miami, you've seen the fickle nature of the
nightclub industry here. Why did you decide to get into the nightclub
business? Ami: I've grown up on Miami Beach, and in the 20-odd years
here I've seen people come and go. The Beach will chew you up and spit
you out. Being here for so long made me want to open a bar. I just
wanted to go back to the good old days, back when South Beach was just
good bars. Now it's just clubs and shit music, and I wanted to change
that. I wanted to have a place where you could get a good cocktail, talk
and chill and not deal with club music. That's what we're going for.
Who came up with the name and what does it mean? Ami: It's everything; the relationship between my partner and me, just
everything. Without love you wouldn't have hate, and without hate you
wouldn't have love. It came from the old school thing where everyone had "love"
and "hate" tattooed on their knuckles, like the Blues Brothers. It's an
old, traditional thing to do.
Love Hate Lounge
I've read that Love Hate will give Miami Ink fans a glimpse into your
'real' lives. How so? Chris: Basically what we're going to do is offer a spot for our fans
and friends to come, hang out, have a drink and basically find me or
Ami. It gives them the opportunity to have a drink with me...[laughs]...
How involved in the day-to-day operation of the lounge will you be? Chris: We have two bar managers and a full staff. Of course it's our
project, but at the same time we're trying to keep the business running
tight and separate. We're still filming and still have the tattoo shop.
We'll oversee and have final decisions, but most of the day-to-day
operations will be done by the staff.
How are you balancing Miami Ink, the lounge and the show? Chris: We don't sleep much. If I'm not doing all that [filming, working
at the shop or at the lounge], then at night I'm promoting. I'm out all
the time. I think the key is balancing, but if we work hard now, our
future is going to be paved nicely. I don't mind putting in the work now if
I can look back later when it's paid off and it's all over.
Will any of the filming for the show be done at the lounge?
Ami: We are trying to squeeze it in because it's a great story to cover
on the show. You get to see what it looked like before and how it got to
where it is today, from the painting to the hanging of the murals. It's
been a long road.
Chris: Tonight there'll be cameras covering it. We've been so stressed
out about it in the show that they had no choice. Between the back and
fourth of our personal lives and our show lives and the bar itself, they
decided to document it.
Tell me a little bit about the lounge. Is it more of a celebrity host
destination or a rock-n-roll party-till-you-puke kind of place? Ami: It's definitely that, like an extension of Miami Ink. Imagine if
Miami Ink had a bar...that's what it's like. There's a cross on the
wall that says, "In memory of my sobriety." I think that sums it up...[laughs]...
What is the lounge's theme? Chris: We did a really classical American tattoo theme. Tonight is
opening night and we aren't millionaires, so there are a lot of things
we had to limit ourselves to. But as the bar grows and continues, a lot
more will go in. We took a straightforward tattoo approach and added
touches of cars and motorcycles. It's kind of like a neighborhood club
house for the boys.
I hear you're planning on live music,
which I find kind of risky, as live music doesn't seem to be a big draw for Miami's
nightlife crowd. Chris: Let me clarify, its not a live music venue, but with all the
connections and friends we have, we know a lot of people in the
entertainment industry who are close. On any given night there may be 6
or 7 guys having a drink and someone will get up and play a live set. It
be more like that, not like a stage venue, more of an impromptu
Why did you choose Washington Avenue for this venture? Ami: I think that's where the action is, and that's where I've always
been. South Beach is pretty much Washington Avenue, it's the heart and
soul. I bought Miami Ink [on Washington] off of another tattoo artist.
It was perfect and just at right time. Now I'm opening three or four
Which night do you anticipate to be the biggest and why? Ami: We definitely want to do something different, like a Sunday daytime
party, from 4 to 9 or 10 p.m. We want to have somewhere where you can
just come in and have great food at the bar, like tapas, and great DJs,
somewhere where people can come lounge in flip-flops and enjoy a bar
where there are cool things to look at.
What is Love Hate going to bring to Miami Beach's nightlife scene that
will make it stand apart from other lounges? Chris: Hopefully we are just going to be edgier. We are obviously going
to give more of a tattoo, old '90s feel back to it. It's more like the
spot where you would see this one and that one, not a celeb fest. Come
out in your jeans and sneaks, kick back and listen to good music. We're
not going to have doorman problems, unless it just gets completely big
and there is nothing we can do about it. We are just opening with the
intention of being a neighborhood bar.
Any chance you'll be putting a tattoo parlor in the club? Ami: No, that's not an issue. We are opening another shop in
a month or two right here on Beach. It'll be an extension of Miami Ink
with choppers and cool, different themes.