The Quick Rise and (Tragic) Fall of Bed Clubs

There was a time when the hottest place to go on night out was a nightclub with beds in it. Aaron Goldfarb delves into the meteoric rise—from anarcho-artists' collective in Amsterdam to that infamous Sex and the City episode—and tragic downfall of the American "bed club" trend.

bed bars original amsterdam superclub 1990s

What happens when you take ancient Greek and Roman dining concepts, an Austrian count by way of Holland, of-the-moment celebrities and some of the most groan-worthy wordplay a new millennium had ever seen? You get the brief era where beds in bars were the hottest thing going in American nightlife.

“This’ll never work in Miami,” thought nightlife impresario Michael Capponi after his friend Oliver Hoyos flew him out to the Netherlands in the late-1990s to visit something called Supperclub. “Everyone was smoking pot, lying around in beds, it was that kind of scene.”

An Austrian count—seriously—born to a line of wealthy European bankers, Hoyos had found great success in the 1990s organizing raves in Amsterdam. He was now looking to set up his first nightclub. “The millennium was nearing. Y2K. It was already August of 1999 when I asked my friends, ‘What do you want to do for New Year’s?’”

No one had any ideas, but Hoyos had a grand one: A nightclub built, perhaps, for one night only. “If it works, great, we’ll keep it open,” he recalls telling them. “If it doesn’t, who cares? It will still be the greatest party ever!”

With $700,000 of his and his friend’s money, Hoyos arrived in Miami on August 13th knowing nothing about the city’s nightlife codes. He quickly found real estate, though, in a rectangular shitbox on the 9th Street block of Washington Avenue where countless other bars had already gone belly-up in the past decade.

“It looked like a nuclear test site,” recalls Hoyos. “No one had been inside in a few years, and the previous tenant’s furniture was still set up.” New Year’s was now just 13 weeks away, and he immediately went to work redesigning the inside with cheap plywood and $3-a-foot, high-density foam, taking interior inspiration from his beloved Supperclub.

It appears one thing was expressly forbidden at B.E.D. Yelp reviewer Edie H. recalls accidentally dozing off only to have a bouncer rouse her with a stern admonition: “Ma’am, you have to wake up, or we’ll escort you out. There’s no sleeping in the beds!”

Amsterdam’s Supperclub opened in 1991 as, according to The Guardian, “an anarcho-artists’ collective with bug-eyed radicals squatting on mattresses plotting to overthrow multinationals.” (Hoyos claims it was really just four very wealthy friends of his who wanted their own private space to party.) Not surprisingly, the club was popular with Amsterdam’s elite, but it was not exactly profitable—anarcho-artistic ambitions rarely are—and the place was nearly bankrupt when textile magnate Bert van der Leden purchased it in 1997. Van der Leden’s vision? Keep the same underground vibe, but turn Supperclub into a legitimate restaurant… with beds.

Soon, the gay-friendly, retro-futurist, three-roomed spot had become famed for its dominatrix waitresses with trays of slurpable oysters served between their legs, performance artists, pole-dancers, fortune-telling penis “readers” in the bathrooms, a cross-dressing American maitre d’ named “Howie” and, most importantly, stylish diners eating multicourse dinners off trays placed in the center of stark, white beds.

Supperclub was (and remains) the first bed-in-a-bar establishment. In modern times, that is. Hoyos was familiar with ancient Greek and Roman concepts like the triclinium, a formal dining room in which three chaise-lounge-type seats were arranged around a table. (Picture a hedonistic, Etruscan emperor in a toga laying on his side as nude slaves fed him grapes and poured goblets of wine into his face.)

Amazingly, according to Keith Bradley, the Professor Emeritus of Classics at Notre Dame, this style of dining was considered refined at the time. “The Romans’ style of dining was supposed to be relaxed, not formal,” he says. “It was to promote a time for stimulating, intellectual discussion, and was generally a mark of good standing in society.”

Opening on December 29, 1999, Hoyos’s Miami outpost cheekily called itself B.E.D. The club’s “mattresses” were actually made from that cheap foam, cut into long shapes to fit along the club’s walls, sheer curtains hanging from the ceiling dividing the “beds.” Total design costs were around $600. With the acronym standing for Beverage, Entertainment, Dining, Hoyos tried his best to honor each letter. Entertainment would come from hip-hop artists like Nas, R. Kelly and Fat Joe who were always guaranteed to be blaring over the speakers as video jockeys projected psychedelic images on big screens. There was also some serious effort put into the B and D.

Each night would see four different seatings—“layings,” as the club officially called them—where bedded customers could drink Champagne and dine on French chef Vitor Casassola’s high-end dishes like Pan-Seared Chilean Sea Bass and Australian lamb in a mustard-tarragon sauce. (The only item Casassola refused to ever prepare for B.E.D.? Soup.)

As Rick Marin of the New York Times declared in an early review, “You can’t just open a restaurant anymore, as any leisure impresario desperate for attention knows. You’ve got to create a scene, a gimmick.”

Nevertheless, such a strange gimmick was still going to need a major boost to get off the ground in a place like Miami Beach. Luckily, after witnessing the organic success of the club in its early days, Michael Capponi was finally willing to jump into B.E.D by the start of 2000.

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Only 27 at the time, Capponi had already found great success in his short life as perhaps the area’s top club promoter, having been a major fixture on the scene since he was just 16 years old. Page Six’s Richard Johnson called him “The godfather of Miami nightlife” while the Miami Herald had already anointed him “The SoBe Prince.”

Capponi decided to organize a signature weekly party to firmly put B.E.D. on the Miami Beach map. Soon, his “Wednesdays in B.E.D.” was the hottest event of Miami’s club week, with early-aughs A-listers like Paris Hilton, Busta Rhymes, Johnny Knoxville and Britney Spears frequently hitting the scene. Florida Marlins pitcher Josh Beckett even partied at B.E.D. just a few nights before his Game Six win in the 2003 World Series. In fact, Wednesday night was so legendary it even spawned a briefly famous doorman, Fabrizio Brienza, an Italian sometimes model/sometimes softcore porn actor, described by the Miami New Times as “a door god.” (His terse policy: “Scumbags out; cool people in.”)

With beds in a bar, though, there was always the high potential for shenanigans—which was, to some degree, exactly the point. “Asked if things ever gets out of hand at B.E.D.,” noted the New York Times in 2001, “(Hoyos) said nothing goes on that does not fall ‘within the legal limits of the state of Florida.’” Though, it appears one thing was expressly forbidden at B.E.D. Yelp reviewer Edie H. recalls accidentally dozing off only to have a bouncer rouse her with a stern admonition: “Ma’am, you have to wake up, or we’ll escort you out. There’s no sleeping in the beds!”

Capponi’s Wednesdays in B.E.D. ran for six solid years. “Club trends only run five, six, maybe seven years before fading out. But that night really revolutionized everything in Miami,” recalls Capponi fondly. By early 2001, Hoyos realized the time had come to expand the empire to other destinations, namely, New York City: “We were holding onto a freight train going at full speed!”

Like most hip things happening in New York at the time, it was Samantha Jones who alerted the nation’s rubes to this phenomenon. In a Season 6 episode of Sex and the City you’ve definitely seen, “The Post-It Always Sticks Twice,” Carrie Bradshaw laments the end of her relationship to Berger (Ron Livingston) after he broke up with her the night (and episode) before via Post-It note.

To get over this unexpected breakup and give her a “fantastic” night out, Samantha decides to take the foursome to opening night at B.E.D. Cue Ms. Bradshaw’s voiceover: “Since people often go to bars to get people into bed, it was only a matter of time until people cut out the middleman and put beds in bars.” While shirtless guys shake up drinks and sexy women in satin bathrobes serve them in a nightclub that looks more like their Silvercup Studios set than an actual hip nightclub, a series of har-har puns and bad double entendres follow. (Miranda slips and falls into a male diner’s bed: “I didn’t even have to buy you dinner.” Carrie unexpectedly runs into one of Berger’s friends and flips out on him: “I just learned you should never go to B.E.D. angry.”

Amazingly, though, that episode ran in August of 2003, a good 15 months before New York had its first bed in a nightclub. Hoyos had told the episode’s writer that New York’s location would be up-and-running by then; instead, he’d been delayed by both the events of 9/11 and a shady business partner.

By 2007, both B.E.D. and Duvet were being bombarded by the hoi polloi. The official Sex and the City Bus Tour had made driving by B.E.D.—which didn’t even have a marquee—a designated stop along with Magnolia Bakery and the sex toys shop where Charlotte once purchased the vaunted “Rabbit” vibrator.

Finally, in December 2004, two equal behemoths in B.E.D. and Duvet appeared in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Hoyos had decided to team up with Dirk Van Stockum, a New York nightlife veteran (Life, Float, crobar) for New York’s B.E.D. Set on West 27th Street in outer Chelsea, it would be bigger and better than Miami’s—not to mention one of the largest dining establishments in all of Manhattan. The sixth-floor venue featured 23 custom-built mattresses sponsored by TempurPedic, able to accommodate up to ten patrons per “laying.” In fixing a problem from the Miami locale, guests were now presented with a pair of designer socks—in either black or nude—so as to not be forced to lounge barefoot.

“The women at B.E.D. seemed more comfortable than the men, zipping off their boots and curling up like cats while their dates kept shifting into various self-consciously cool reposes,” the New York Times noticed.

Meanwhile, the 20,000-square-foot, two-level Duvet opened a half-dozen blocks away—it’s motto: “Upscale dining, while reclining”—serving Asian-inspired dishes and sugary cocktails with names like Sweet Dream, Pillow Talk and the signature White Satin Mojito. It had a staff known as the “Pajama Patrol” and an Andrés Escobar interior design that included Venetian plaster walls, silver leaf-speckled ceilings and a colorful lighting arrangement that infused the entire club in constantly-changing pink and teal hues.

Soon, beds were popping up at other various hotspots around the city. By early 2005 there were five Manhattan spots where you could fully drink and dine in bed. There was Highline a little further downtown where, according to Newsday, “white damask sheets cover(ed) Swiss Thermapedic mattresses.” There was Jeffrey Chodorow’s Ono in the Gansevoort Hotel and Underbar in the basement of Union Square’s W Hotel. There was even a French-Vietnamese restaurant in the West Village, Hue, which placed beds in its VIP rooms.

Even so, in Bon Appétit‘s January 2005 “What’s Hot, What’s Not, What’s Next?” issue, bed bars and restaurants were placed firmly on the “What’s Not?” list. Nevertheless, B.E.D. started expanding to more cities. The third spot was Atlanta, where a B.E.D. opened in the downtown Glenn Hotel in February of 2006.

Supperclubs had also now sprung up in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Istanbul and even on a cruise ship. Then, came the copycats like BED Club in England, Bed Nightclub in Northern Ireland and The Bedroom Nightclub in Brisbane. The two bed bar icons’ names were merged for a knock-off called Bed Supperclub, which became wildly successful in Bangkok. There was even The Bedroom VIP Lounge in lovely Baltimore, of all places.

bed nightclub illustration

All signs seemed to indicate that the bed bar bubble was near. But for the fiscal year of 2006, B.E.D. brought in gross sales topping $22 million with net profits of over 20 percent, with reports of Hoyos and his partners planning nearly a dozen more B.E.D.s across the planet, in cities such as Los Angeles, Las Vegas, London and Dubai.

He’d never get around to them.

By 2007, both B.E.D. and Duvet were being bombarded by the hoi polloi. The official Sex and the City Bus Tour had made driving by B.E.D.—which didn’t even have a marquee—a designated stop along with Magnolia Bakery and the sex toys shop where Charlotte once purchased the vaunted “Rabbit” vibrator. Now visitors to B.E.D. and Duvet during this era were all of the sudden becoming a little less… cool.

A peek at Yelp reviews from 2007 paints a sad but frequently similar picture. A sample: “Ok I confess, my girls and I went to BED because we wanted to do that whole Sex and the city [sic] themed NY trip … complete with our own designated counterparts (I’m Charlotte :p).” Still, such an explosive concept like B.E.D. was never going to merely fizzle out. It would take tragedy to put an end to the dream.

In February of 2007, a inebriated Bronx man celebrating his 35th birthday got into a skirmish with Granville Adams, a manager at B.E.D. During the ensuing fracas, Adams slammed the man against the club’s elevators, accidentally causing them to open, and sending the clubgoer headfirst down the shaft. Adams, a part-time actor who had once portrayed prisoner Zahir Arif on the HBO show Oz, was charged with criminally negligent homicide (the charges were eventually dropped).

His empire becoming too much trouble for him to rule over any longer—not to mention the possibility of lawsuits growing ever more concerning—Hoyos immediately closed New York and Atlanta’s B.E.D. for good and sold his interests in the Miami locale. He went back to Europe to stay at a friend’s house in Spain where “I basically sat still for six months not even speaking,” he recalls. “After shaking probably three millions hands in the previous decade, I’d lost my social battery.”

Hoyos now lives in Frankfurt, Germany, where a few years ago he opened a popular fast-casual joint called Burger Baby. He’s glad he’s out of the nightclub business, though still remembers his B.E.D. days fondly: “I’ve been to bed with over two million women. Not even Casanova can say that!”

Later in 2007, Duvet also faced tragedy when rapper Fabolous was reportedly on the scene as a childhood friend of his was fatally stabbed outside the venue. The New York Post reported that over the next two years, the cops were summoned to the club 42 times. Then, in December of 2009, a Duvet bouncer (who was incidentally an ex-con) sexually assaulted a woman in one of the club’s bathroom stalls. The State Liquor Authority voted unanimously to shutter the joint—which had recently taken the unfortunate name “Club Climax”—for good.

In the summer of 2011, B.E.D. Miami finally whimpered to a close. According to Page Six, the final straw was when a Season 2 episode of the Jersey Shore filmed in the once-chic nightclub, “put(ting) a sour taste in the mouths of South Beach elitists.” (The nightclub’s website is still online for whatever reason, some optimist apparently still footing the GoDaddy bill.)

Today, Washington Avenue has become a place hip locals rarely visit any more. It only has a few remaining major nightclubs like Mansion, and the two-lane street is now mainly packed with tacky T-shirt stands, coffee shops, convenience stores, a Burger King “Whopper Bar” and even a pole-dancing studio.

“B.E.D. came at a very unique time in Miami Beach history,” recalls Capponi, now the founder of InList, a smartphone app designed to help average Joes get inside the ropes at today’s hottest nightclubs. “When real money got here around the millennium, a lot of wealthy Europeans came with it. That was where Oliver was from. They were trust fund kids from old money Europe—the real jet-set Monte Carlo crowd mixing with models and celebrities,” he says. “I’ve been involved in South Beach nightlife since basically its inception—1989—and that was the best clientele we’ve had in any cycle. Those were truly the glory days.”

Though a few international bed-in-a-bar concepts still remain, the former sites of America’s B.E.D.s have sat vacant for years. Manhattan’s B.E.D. locale was empty and dormant until 2011, when a British theatrical company turned it into a performance space called The McKittrick Hotel. Fittingly, they now put on a popular immersive play called Sleep No More.

 

Illustrations: Natalie K. Nelson

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  • Gringa123

    Great read and well researched. I remember the SoBe BED fondly though the NYC version was not as good. There was also one in DC as the VIP room/top floor of a club called 1223.