Unlike in Europe, private beach clubs are a no-no in Australia so Artesian Hospitality moved four stories into the air to establish their Ibiza-esque party hub among the Surfers Paradise high-rises.
Gold Coast-based Artesian Hospitality is defying the pandemic doomsayers and Queensland’s trigger happy border patrol by opening a brand new all-day entertainment precinct on the Glitter Strip.
Cali Beach is going all out to be Australia’s first Euro-style beach club and features four pools; bookable VIP cabanas, booths and sun lounges; a restaurant, food outlets and multiple bars; along with a beach volleyball court and an open air cinema. At a cost of $10m, the 5500sqm development represents a significant investment by the company, which currently employs 350 staff in its half-dozen Surfers Paradise-based enterprises.
The rooftop venue hovers four stories above the corner of Elkhorn Avenue and Surfer’s Paradise Boulevard, overhead the X Galaxy retail mall. While Cali Beach is barely a five-minute stroll from Artesian’s nightclub properties — Sin City, Havana RnB, The Bedroom, Surfers Pavilion and White Rhino — the concept behind this new operation represents a significant extension on the tried and true formulae that has led to the success of their existing dining and clubbing establishments.
venue spoke to Matthew Keegan, managing partner of Artesian Hospitality, to learn more about the ideas behind their ‘beach club’ enterprise.
IBIZA, VEGAS, MIAMI
Matthew Keegan: “Internationally, this concept exists in many places in Europe — obviously in Ibiza and the Greek Isles; it exists in the US, in places like Las Vegas, Miami, LA, but in Australia there’s nothing like Cali Beach. So this is the first of its kind, where you have pools, outdoor deck areas, views of the ocean, you can have a drink in the pool, you can drink up on the deck.”
To be clear, Matthew’s Cali Beach is not actually on the beach, though it certainly is at a beach, Surfers Paradise, with the sand and the blue Pacific Ocean less than a block away.
Matthew Keegan: “No Australian government or council will allow you to build anything on a beach. So it’s very difficult for beach clubs to exist in this country, notwithstanding the fact that we have fantastic beaches. The other thing is actually finding a space that’s this big — 5500sqm, including our function space. That’s almost impossible to achieve in an open air environment where you can have pools and other facilities, unless you own a hotel. That said, most hotels in Australia don’t want this type of experience within their properties — hotel guests like to have their own pools and their own facilities, they don’t necessarily want the public coming in. That poses a real challenge for a hotel to be able to activate a space in the same way that we’ve done here. So it requires a unique set of circumstances to create something like this: the location, views, open air…”
IN ON THE GROUND FLOOR
With five venues just a stone’s throw away, Matthew himself was in a unique position to sniff out and secure a lease to this one-of-a-kind location before it formally came to market. The site sits atop what is now the X Gallery retail centre — though many will remember the location by its former identity as the Galleria. The massive rooftop space was serving as the pool deck and tennis court for guests of the adjacent Mantra Hotel before Matthew recognised its potential to be so much more. The existing pool infrastructure served as a perfect basis for a complete makeover — adding a restaurant, bar, outdoor cinema and beach volleyball court as well as a state-of-the-art entertainment package, including a DJ booth and dancefloor.
“It’s not a cheap exercise to create a venue like this,” he says, with measured understatement. “And it requires confidence in the brand and the vision and the location that you’ve got. We were fortunate enough to be in a position with our brand and our company that we were able to take a risk like this.”
SOUNDS OF EXCITEMENT
A great deal of design, planning and craftsmanship has gone into the immaculate presentation of the pool areas, bars and eateries of Cali Beach… and it shows. But creating a pulsing entertainment venue in the open air, complete with DJs, live acts and cinema brought some of the most challenging issues.
“When you’re so focussed on live entertainment, and you’re operating throughout the day, you need to have a fantastic sound system,” Matthew explains. “It’s not just about the venue or the aesthetics; it’s about how you feel when you’re here. We have to make customers feel like they’re part of the music, they’re right in front of the artist wherever they are in the venue.”
However, with at least 200 rooms of the adjacent Mantra hotel directly overlooking Cali Beach and perhaps a thousand more hotel rooms and apartments within earshot all around, keeping a lid on spill from the sound and lighting systems would be critical.
“We have neighbours right at our doorstep,” Matthew continues, “and we have no walls and roof that you traditionally have in a venue to contain noise. So we had to work very hard from an acoustic engineering and a sound perspective to make sure that we had the correct placement, correct style of system in order to mitigate dispersion, but maximise the quality of the sound inside the venue, which was absolutely critical to customer experience.”
Matthew summed up his requirements for the Cali Beach sound system quite succinctly: “…create the experience that you can typically expect inside a nightclub, whether you’re on the dancefloor, on the beach volleyball court, or in the pool, but contain that sound within a small area.”
To meet that demanding audio brief, and supply the lighting, LED screens and atmospheric effects expected by audiences and visiting international artists, Artesian called in trusted AV partner The Prestige Group.
Nathan Wright, General Manager of The Prestige Group, takes up the story: “There were a lot of requirements. Getting a very tight sound was crucial, but so was sound quality.”
But wait, there’s more. Just as important, for a venue right next to the beach, was weatherproofing. Equipment selection, especially for speakers, would be key.
“JBL ticked all the boxes for this project,” Nathan continues. “The beauty of the JBL product range, is they’ve pretty much got a speaker for every eventuality, and the JBL weatherproof range is designed for these harsh environments. JBL loudspeakers met the SPL spec, they had all the speaker dimensions and angling and frequency responses that we needed, and they had it across the range.”
With help from JBL Professional supplier MadisonAV, which provided 3D modelling of the different zones and recommended the best models, Prestige installed 80 loudspeakers from across JBL’s CBT and AWC range. “We’ve got a mix of various speakers around the zones. But together they just worked great as a seamless experience for everyone.”
“We’ve been very happy with JBL,” Matthew Keegan confirms. “It was an extremely smooth experience for us in dealing with both Prestige and with MadisonAV. From my perspective, as a venue owner, we’re very happy.”
BUY WITH YOUR EYES
The visual components of the technology installation are impressive. The most conspicuous examples are the LED displays from VuePix Infiled.
The Cali Beach installation includes a massive 8m x 4m VuePix Infiled MV6 screen with 6.9mm pixel pitch that serves as the outdoor cinema area; a 2m x 3m (portrait oriented) GX3 series screen behind the central dancefloor for the DJ; and a third 5m x 1m VuePix Infiled MV5 LED screen facing the pool area.
Matthew Keegan, explains why large-format LED is so important to larger venues like Cali Beach: “As venues get larger, not everyone can see the DJ or the act,” he observes. “LED screens have become critical to incorporating all the aspects of the venue and then making that content available to multiple locations. It’s an indispensable complement to the sound and when those things work together in harmony, that’s what really provides the vibe people are after.”
Clearly, it is early days for Cali Beach and for the rooftop beach club concept. But the signs are all pointing in the right direction according to Artesian.
“For our grand opening weekend we had the Stafford brothers and Timmy Trumpet playing, and they bring quite the party,” Matthew enthuses. “… [I saw] people packing out the dancefloor, dancing in their cabanas, dancing in the pools…
“When you hear people say ‘I’m having the time of my life’ because of the acts performing and the sound they’re hearing — as a venue owner, there’s no better feeling in the world.”
Although Cali Beach had only just notched up its first weekend of operation when venue spoke with him, Keegan was quick to sketch the next stages in the development.
“We’re going to see how the venue evolves as the Gold Coast evolves. Things are going to change quite a lot over the next few years on the Gold Coast. With the advent of people moving here and, post-COVID, international travel starting to open up again, we stand ready to see where that pulls us and in which direction.
“The expectation is that Cali Beach will evolve more as a live entertainment venue. As we increasingly get larger acts we will be able to open up more days throughout the week. The other expectation is that we’re going to add further offerings, over the next two years — more restaurants, potentially a night facility. There’s going be a lot more to come.”
Matthew of course, knows that there is a long road ahead but was bullish about prospects for his beach club concept further afield. “Over the next three years, we expect a lot of things to happen, both for the Cali beach brand and for this particular venue of Cali Beach on the Gold Coast,” he declared.
“From an Artesian perspective, this is a brand that we’re going to look to roll out in other locations. It’s not something that’s going to be a one-off on the Gold Coast, never to be done again. We’re going to look at the brand over the next year or so and then look to see how we can take it and apply it to other locations across Australia and potentially abroad.
Given the achievements so far, it would be unwise to bet against him.