Corrections or additions?

This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the June 29,

2005 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

. . . and the Man-Made Shore

There are now beds, piled high with huge white pillows, on the beach

at Atlantic City. Nikki Beach, the ultra-chic bar and restaurant, with

locations in St. Tropez, St. Barts, Puerto Vallarta, Sardinia, and

South Beach in Miami, has set up its tepees; erected its platform

beds, complete with white curtains; and installed its

Polynesian-inspired, carved wooden furniture right on the sand.

The newest entry into Atlantic City’s bustling beach bar scene, Nikki

Beach opened on Memorial Day weekend, and is still working on getting

up to speed.

Miguel Qunitero, a spokesman for the chic bar, says that food —

fabulous, gourmet food — will be added soon. “Maybe today,” he says,

“maybe next week, or the week after.” Admission policies are also in

flux.

Pausing on a morning bicycle ride on the boardwalk to exclaim over the

bar — which is a huge outdoor room, defined by a lattice work of

bamboo walls and anchored by a large, undulating bar encircled by

high-backed chairs covered in white linen — the spouse and I joined a

small group of the curious. We asked a friendly security guy with

blonde cornrows, huge muscles, and a face and demeanor that suggest a

high school graduation in his recent past, about the dress code. “Oh,

you folks look fine,” he said. A grandmother in sweatpants, out to

shepherd her little grandson to the beach, exhanged glances with us.

It didn’t seem possible that ancient shorts and sweaty T-shirts would

be allowed to defile this white, outdoor Xanadu.

And in fact, 10 or so hours later, when the spouse and I had cleaned

up, we found that the blonde bouncer had been a little off in his

dress code advice. He had also failed to mention the fabulousness

requirement, and was off on the cover charge, which he pegged at zero.

But we had walked to Nikki Beach, a good 50-minute trek from our condo

at the south end of the beach, and had had a full day of tennis and

biking beforehand. We were determined to get in and to loll about on

those fabulous beds. So when a seven-foot tall bouncer with a

no-nonsense air tried to dissuade us — “The cover is $20,” he said,

looking us up and down in a way that pegged our fabulousness factor at

minus 10 — we smiled and prepared to fork over $40. Except that the

hostess, in a sort of harem get-up, said that women were free.

It appears that the cover charge is fluid — highly fluid. Quintero,

the spokesman, says that it can be $500 ($500!) when “celebrities are

in the house.” If there’s an “A list” crowd he says, giving Donovan

McNabb and Paris Hilton as examples, the price could rise that high.

At first he indicates that upper stratosphere prices would include

bottle service — perhaps a bottle of Grey Goose with set-ups, which

would include ice, attractive glasses, and juices. But then, he says,

no, if the star wattage is high enough, the liquor would not be

included.

Typically on weekend evenings, Quintero says, admission would be

between $100 and $500. On weekdays, or on a slow weekend evening, it

could be $20 or maybe even free. During the day — Nikki Beach opens at

10 a.m. — there is generally no admission charge.

On our Nikki Beach excursion we were largely ignored by the female

wait staff, and that turned out to be a good thing. We chose our own

spots, sitting on cushion-covered benches, reclining on

crocodile-inspired bench/beds, and sprawling on a fabulous bed right

on the sand mere yards from the ocean just as the sun was setting and

the stars were coming out. (Nikki Beach was recently fined $50,000 by

the DEP for building too close to the ocean and for doing so without

bothering with permits.) We even tried out one of those raised

platform beds.

While we had fun with the incredibly comfortable furnishings, we did

become parched. We tried politely signaling to one waitress, and then

another, before getting up and asking a third what the drink-ordering

procedure was. We were seeing agressively gorgeous groups not only

sipping all manner of liquor, but also feasting on platters of what

looked — from afar — to be stuffed grape leaves. Each of these parties

was attended by no fewer than three waitresses. When it became obvious

that a diet Coke — let alone a grape leaf — was not in our future

without decisive action, we walked through the sand and over a dance

floor that might be teak (Quintero is not sure) and shouted over the

techno dance music a request for a couple of sodas ($6 for a diet Coke

and a club soda, each in a gorgeous, but small, glass).

Thirst quenched we returned to our seaside bed, rearranged the nubby

pillows, and were surprised, after an hour of invisibility, to find a

smiling young man offering us sushi. He returned again and again,

sometimes carrying coconut shrimp, sometimes fruit, and once, some

excellent homemade breadsticks. There was no charge.

Asked about the bounty, Quintero said that the free hors d’oeurves

were just an opening weekend thing. When the kitchen gets in gear food

offerings will include platters. They won’t be cheap, he warns,

probably running to at least $75. “But they will feed about four,” he

offers as a consolation. He was a little less clear about the

possibility that Nikki Beach will serve sit-down dinners. Maybe it

will — or not.

Nikki Beach, which sits in front of the Resorts hotel, is part of a

complex. Next to the bar is a large concert space complete with an

elaborate, high-tech, white-awninged stage. With a capacity of some

5,000 people it was to host dozens of big name entertainers all summer

long. But now that plan has changed. Quintero was unable to say why.

He says that there may be beach volley ball in the space, and that

local bands will likely perform.

On the other side of the concert space is the just-opened Penrod’s

Elbo Room, a cousin to the 1938 restaurant of the same name in Fort

Lauderdale. There are no white beds in Penrods. It is, rather, says

Quintero, a more laid-back place for those who cannot make it past

Nikki Beach’s velvet rope. The food runs to chicken fingers and hot

dogs. There is no cover charge.

Comfortable with being Z list people, the spouse and I will definitely

return to Nikki Beach — perhaps after soliciting fashion and attitude

advice from our children. We have no desire to share a cushion with

Paris Hilton — although meeting Donovan McNabb would be cool.

(Quintero suggests that Monday through Wednesday evenings might be

good for those unwilling to pay anything approaching a three-digit

cover.) Looking up at the stars through Nikki Beach’s ceiling-less

room and watching the moonlight up the ocean while the fabulous frolic

nearby is a unique Jersey shore experience.

Nikki Beach, Atlantic City, in front of the Resorts

hotel; open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day. Visit www.nikkibeach.com

or call 609-340-7845.


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