Weekend preview: A cool scene right Next Door

For all the outreach that happens in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s FAT Village, many folks who live around the area remain hesitant to dip a toe in. Even the monthly Art Walk is a challenge for those people able to walk without falling down, but worried that they don’t “art” very well.

But you can drink, can’t you?

On Friday night, some of downtown Fort Lauderdale’s most relevant movers and shakers open a new venue that is sure make FAT Village a more popular destination.

Take a detour inside a door beside C&I Studios, and at the end of the hall you’ll find yourself at Next Door, a laid-back bar by night (8 p.m.-2 a.m.) and a new location of Brew coffeehouse by day (6 a.m.-3 p.m.). The project is an expansion of the 4,000-square-foot C&I Studios (541 NW First Ave.), the music, graphic design and film production firm run by Josh Miller.

Next Door is the physical representation of the vibe Miller has promoted via C&I’s Art Walk parties, movie nights and the free Friday barbecues he hosts outside the building every month.  Miller, who moved from Washington, D.C., in 2008, and relocated C&I Studios to FAT Village from a building near Commercial Boulevard nearly three years ago, calls Next Door a "community space."

“This is an extension of that. It’s about building community,” Miller says. “If we were just sitting here churning out videos for our clients, we would not be fulfilling our mission as a company. Community involvement is a big deal for us.”

He says the idea began to flicker 18 months ago, and gained momentum as C&I’s Art Walk crowds began to linger later and later.

“We were having a really hard time getting people to leave. The last Art Walk we had people hanging out past midnight, drinking their beer and wine,” Miller says. “They were just looking for a place to go.”

The eclectic vibe at Next Door is everywhere: On one side of the bar sits a silver Airstream trailer (towed in from Lakeland, it will at some point become a recording studio, Miller says) and behind the bar is a wall of more than 3,000 books, real books, not decoration (titles include Walter Isaacson’s “Steve Jobs” and Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises,” “The Memoirs of Richard Nixon” and “Blind Ambition” by John Dean). And they are meant to be read: Ask the bartender or barista, and they'll fetch one for you.

The literary theme extends to the $10 craft cocktails, with names of writing heroes, such as the Harper Lee (vodka, ginger beer and lime), the Maya Angelou and the Aaron Sorkin.

Not only does Next Door offer a creative space to hang out, there will be real art being made in a photo/video studio a few steps away from the bar. Throughout November C&I Studios is offering photographers free studio time in the space (openings remain: check with studio manager Brandon Baker at Brandon@c-istudios.com). 

Among the community that helped Miller create Next Door are Julian Siegel, the beer visionary at Riverside Market, who stocked the bar; Brew owners Robert and Daniella Denison; and professional party-crowd sourcers like Sara Shake at Exposed PR.

The opening of a new Brew will be welcome news to fans of the funky Himmarshee shop that closed about a month ago. Regulars there told Daniella Denison they could not bring themselves to patronize the more corporate Victoria Park location nearby.

Standing near the Airstream, Denison says, “We think they’ll like this place.”

Miller says Next Door has cost “tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of dollars,” but is well worth it if they can achieve their goal.

“We want to make an impact on Fort Lauderdale. You hear all the time that Fort Lauderdale is not creative, that there’s nothing to do here. We want people to fly into Fort Lauderdale and say, “I’ve gotta see what’s going on in FAT Village.”

The Next Door opening party on Friday will take place from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. at 537 NW First Ave.,  Fort Lauderdale. Info: Facebook.com/CIStudios.

When the Royal Concept had to cancel their spot on Sunday's Coastline Festival bill at the Cruzan Amphitheatre, Live Nation's Neil Jacobsen had to scramble a little. But "it really worked out for the best... and we added some local indie bands that have a following." Added to the bill were Orlando's Civilian and Kids, a Fort Lauderdale-based band that works with ... C&I Studios. Hit the link for more Coastline Festival news. Get a taste of Kids at Facebook.com/TheBandKids, and watch this "Live at C&I Studios" video for "Sink or Swim""  

Southwest Second Street in downtown Fort Lauderdale's Himmarshee District has for years operated under an uneasy truce between places that might have Prosecco and Havarti cheese on the menu and those who do most of their business in plastic cups. And the latter seemed to have been winning. On Friday, the Himmarshee Public House (201 SW Second St.) will make a strong case for more class on Southwest Second. Mark Falsetto's "sporting lounge" has the menu you'd expect from a place run by the owner of the popular, foodie-oriented burger joint Rok:Brgr across the street, and a bright, airy environment perfect for relaxed dining and sports-watching conviviality. Hit the link for a preview of Himmarshee Public House.