New Disco A Heady Experience

Homemade Club With Calif. Theme Pullingin Crowds

January 09, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Under the purple neon lights, the first Madonna wannabes cluster around the dance floor and wait for their big moment.

The night stillis young, filled with the heady promise of really turning up the volume. The large floor still is empty, except for two blondes in miniskirts dancing a solitary duet. But the music beckons, drawing a growing, restless crowd to the railing.

Young men sporting the bilevel, the latest hair-style rage among the twenty-something crowd, sip beers and talk sports. Women in skintight skirts and high heels hover together, eagerly tapping their feetto the beat.

"Do you think my hair looks OK?"

"Don't worry, once you get out there, they won't be looking at your hair."

OutsideL.A.'s, Glen Burnie's newest nightspot, a line already is forming. Despite the steady drizzle, couples holding hands and groups of friends stand at the door.

"There were, like, 200 people here yesterday night. It was wild."

With no advertising except through the grapevine, John and David Vogelsang have achieved what every nightclub and restaurant owner dreams of --popularity in three short weeks.

The brothers from South Baltimore appear to have found a niche with L.A.'s Restaurant and Bar, a three-level mix of a Bennigan's-style eatery,a sports bar and a polished, 800-square-foot dance floor. Since theyopened their new club Dec. 17, larger crowds stand at the door everyweekend.

"Word's been on the street," says John Vogelsang, 31, a self-described "night-life guy," who worked as a bartender for 12 years. "It's been great, we're getting more and more people."

"Everybody at work was talking about this great new club, so I thought I'd check it out. I just broke up with my girlfriend. Gotta do these single things again."

Sandwiched between a Dunkin' Donuts and a Sizzleron Ritchie Highway, L.A.'s is a homemade club. From the palm-tree logo to the downstairs beer bar, it was planned, designed and crafted by the Vogelsang brothers.

David Vogelsang, 39, used to own Something Special, a restaurant in the Howard House Hotel on Howard Street in Baltimore. He and John were looking to open a nightclub when they spotted a newspaper ad last year offering a chance to renovate the abandoned Beefsteak Charlie's in Glen Burnie. The brothers drew up a proposal and presented it to Guido Doria, their business partner who owns a string of restaurants in Florida.

"It needed a lot of work when we got here," recalls David Vogelsang. "It had been closed for a year and a half, so the pipes were bad, the electric was bad, everything was bad. But with the help of our friends, we got things rolling."

They obtained a liquor license Aug. 14 and spent the next months rehabbing the former restaurant. They kept the bars and tables, but redecorated the rest. Friends helped them install a tiled dance floor,and Dwayne Lutsk, an art teacher from Anne Arundel Community College, painted a large mural of palm trees in exchange for free food and drinks.

They picked the name L.A.'s, after their disc jockey, Mike Denoe, mentioned that he had worked in a Washington club called Chicago's.

"I was in L.A. once, but I didn't see much of the city," John Vogelsang confesses. "We hit all the bars. I'm a night-life guy; I like going to bed at 5 in the morning."

L.A.'s is not exactly Spago, but it has a touch of California. Souvenir bottles of Sutter Home Zinfandel adorn the tables upstairs, while the dance floor is dominated by the purple mural of palm trees.

Since so many nightclubs dieovernight, the Vogelsangs plan to rely on the restaurant and sports bar business if the club set loses interest. The dinner crowd still is sparse. But the Vogelsangs hope to draw more diners with an eight-page menu offering everything from nachos to swordfish dinners.

"I was driving by and thought I'd stop. The food is really good."

Drawing business people to eat lunch at L.A.'s has been tougher than attracting young couples to dance the night away. As Denoe spins the Top40 hits and the night wears on, more and more people head to the dance floor. Soon, the Madonna look-a-likes are outnumbered by couples in other clubbing attire -- from string ties to tight jeans, from black sweat shirts to cowboy boots to silver hoops. The floor is crowded with dancers, swaying, humming, snapping their fingers.

"We went to the Safari Club last weekend, but it was dead. Everyone must have been here."

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