Beach Party History
Photo: Michael Jagla, www.foto-jagla.de
Have you ever wondered how our epic Beach Party came to be, what it means to our 70k community, or why it's in South Beach instead of Ft Lauderdale?
All the answers are here...
Photo: Henrik Voth, (2011)
It was in January 23rd, 2011. A few metalheads were wandering around South Beach looking forward to the first of an unknown adventure, the maiden voyage of 70,000 Tons of Metal. Through the crowds of typical south beach bikinis and cover-ups, emerged a cluster of black T-shirts... like large black magnets they quickly congregated, and the first 70k Beach Party commenced! For the next 3 years the beach party grew and got bigger and better. Bryan Zakala was one of the first people to post Facebook events for the beach party. Because of this, in addition to more activity on the official 70k forum and word of mouth, more people knew about it and were able to plan their arrival to Miami early so they wouldn't miss it. The beach party in South Beach became an essential part of the 70k experience. A time to make new friends and re-connect with the ones you had already met - prior to the chaos of the boat.
Then things changed. At the end of the 2014 cruise, Andy, the “Skipper”and 70k founder, announced that we would have a bigger boat, and that it would be leaving from a larger port in Ft. Lauderdale. There was immediate dissension within the 70k family. While some loved the idea of going to Ft. Lauderdale, others were repulsed. It was clear from the beginning that we would be spread out over 30 miles of coastline from South Beach to the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale. Something had to be done. So I started looking for a way to make a Beach Party in Ft. Lauderdale even BETTER than the one in South Beach! My vision was to find a place where we could continue the party, eat and drink after the sun went down. I wanted a place where we could do a 100% take over where we felt like we were already on the boat - with metal, and metalheads everywhere!
For five of the cruises (4, plus Barge) we had partied in South Beach without any problems. We made friends with the cops, cleaned up after ourselves and had a great time. But in Ft Lauderdale the "No Alcohol" rules on the beach were strictly enforced and we didn’t want to risk getting the party shut down. My hope was to find a private beach, or a bar that had a liquor license on the beach, or within a few steps of it. As it turns out there are not many hotels or bars like that in Ft. Lauderdale. There's a highway going along the beach that separates everything. By zooming in on the beaches in Google Maps; I found a small friendly hotel, complete with a Tiki Bar, right on the beach in Hollywood, just south of Ft. Lauderdale. The manager was happy to host us and even ordered Trooper Beer and aluminum bottles. The only rules were: no glass and no trash on the beach!
While it was a great event, with a great turnout and lots of fun, few people know that it was extremely close to being shut down. The large crowd has spilled over from the bar/patio and on the boardwalk and bike path. The lines to the bathrooms were so long that people were peeing in the street. Neighbors complained and the police arrived to shut down the party. Despite already being a little buzzed I switched out of party mode and quickly into “professional negotiator”. The manager of the Riptide and I spoke at great length with the police officers and ensured them we would address every concern they had, (people blocking the bike path, glass on the beach, pissing in the streets, etc). Fortunately, we were allowed to continue but only if we hired two off-duty police officers to be on site for the duration of the event. The manager and I agreed to hire them immediately, and the party raged on. (To their credit, the Riptide paid the entire bill.)
For the 2016 beach party, the Riptide really wanted to work with us, but knew that it would not be tolerated again unless they got a permit for a liquor license on the beach. For them, the cost of meeting all the requirements of the permit would have been over $7,000. They advised me to check out a hotel a little farther north, the only hotel with a private beach and a liquor license for said beach. Hello Ocean Manor!
2016 at Ocean Manor
It sounded like the perfect place. Hotel, bar, private beach, what could possibly go wrong? The problem was we could not book 100% of the hotel, because it was part condo and part residential, where the residents actually lived there year round. Also, because of their liquor license, they were strict about people bringing their own alcohol to their bar and adjacent beach. Some people, expecting a South Beach style beach party ended up getting their bottles, brought from their countries to be shared with each other, confiscated. Additionally, the bar was too small, too slow and they had problems with some guys who were wearing battle flaps. We of course made the most of it and had a blast, but when it was over, and the comments poured in I knew it was time to re-evaluate my efforts. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. New port…new beach; it made sense. But it just wasn't the same, despite my greatest efforts, hours of research, phone calls and negotiations. In the end, two key people - Birgit Haugen and Matt Farides, both spoke with me at length about going back to South Beach. However, I was resistant; I didn't want to give up my dream to re-create the cruise experience on land. I envisioned a place where we could have an entire hotel full of metalheads, and party all night. I didn't think it could happen in South Beach, but I was wrong.
At the time, the thing we had not realized was the significance of the change in cruise dates. The boat used to leave Miami on a Monday, so our parties were over the weekend, when everyone usually parties in South Beach and the hotels are packed. Since the cruise was now leaving on a Thursday, it should be easier to find a hotel for a Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday takeover. Matt suggested the Clevelander, the biggest party hotel on South Beach. I contacted the Clevelander in March 2016, yes eleven months before the 2017 cruise. Their response was overwhelming. They would reserve the entire hotel for us. They’d give us special rates, happy hour pricing on food and drinks all day, play our 70k set list, and book our 70k Karaoke DJ for Live Band Karaoke. Also, it's right across the street from the beach. We could have our epic historic beach party during the day, continue the time honored tradition of of sharing bottles of liquor from our home countries, and be just steps away from food, drink and the bathrooms when needed! It was a dream come true after years of searching for the right place, the Beach Party finally had a home. The owner of the hotel, loves us, loves the event, and can’t wait for us to come back.
So here we are, booking 70,000 Tons of Metal 2018. We are working to make next year even better! The management is committed to resolving the pricing issues and we’ll have the drink specials posted at every bar and table. In addition there will be longer live band karaoke and special sponsors and prizes. Even if you don't stay at The Clevelander, you are welcome to all the events. The whole point of any of this - the only thing that motivates my obsession to plan and organize, is to bring us all together. Four days is not enough! The bond that has formed in our family, in our community is really something special that we should never take for granted. So when I see new cruisers contemplating staying closer to the port... or people complaining about the price and wanting to go somewhere else, I just wonder... do they even know? Do they even know what it took to get to where we are seven years later? Where else is there a full metal takeover of the biggest dance club on South Beach, and the largest gathering of metalheads outside of a festival or concert? Do they even know how fucking epic that is?
Well, if you actually read all this, now you do, and those of you who decide to do something else or stay someplace else, I get that too. No one place will ever accommodate all of us, except for the boat, that is. Maybe that's what makes it so magical. But those of you who do join us, know that you are truly part of metal history. Know that you are joining your family, your community, your tribe, in a way that simply does not happen anywhere else.
See you on the beach!