There hasn't been much for teen-agers to do around Westminster since the roller skating rink closed in the mid-1980s and the drinking age went from 18 to 21.
Or so it seemed to Ross Jones as he noticed lines outside bars sponsoring non-alcoholic Sunday night events for people younger than 18.
He and his partner, Jim Maddox, decided to attract those teen-age throngs to their own business, Profiles, a non-alcoholic bar they opened three years ago in the Carroll Plaza shopping center. In April, they closed it and will re-open later this month in bigger, more attractive quarters in what used to be a J.C. Penney's department store on West Main Street.
"Basically, we just winged it, and it has grown and grown," Jones said. Only after the partners started their first whiskey-less bar did they learn of others in Pennsylvania tapping the same market of under-age, aspiring nightclub habitues.
"Basically, they need some independence," Jones said, "a place to go where they can kind of be watched, but not be watched."
Jones hopes to finish the painting of sky blue walls, hang the throbbing dance lighting and install cafe and bar stool tables in time to open Thursday. He's left much of the interior as it was when Penney's was there from 1929 until the store closed last year.
Outside, the Penney's logo is gone, but the yellow-tiled facade, trimmed in green, still stands as a downtown landmark.
Inside, lighted signs still mark "layaway and credit" and "home furnishings" downstairs, along with "sportswear" and "dresses" on the balcony. The store's old floor tiles, newly polished, will stay, too. One of the upstairs offices will be converted to a disk jockey's booth.
Rinaldo's Pizza, a shop across the street, will open a pizza and soft drink concession on the balcony. Included in the usual run of sodas will be pina coladas and strawberry Daiquiris, with ginger ale standing in for the rum.
Jones, 26, grew up in Mount Airy, but says that as a teen-ager he was too busy with school activities and weekend jobs to worry about where to hang out.
His nightclub is an after-hours affair. By day, he works on Baltimore's television hill as a videotape engineer on television commercials.
Maddox, his partner, is 27 and employed with a firm under contract to fix federal government computers in Washington.
They chose the name Profiles because driver-license photos of underage drivers are shot in profile to distinguish them instantly, in identification proofs, from adults, whose pictures are taken full face.
The move to Main Street will expand the club's space from 3,300 to more than 7,000 square feet, enough to accommodate bands. The crowd permitted by fire safety regulations could increase from 260 to 300.
At the shopping center, the hours were 8 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays only. The cover charge was $4. Now, the owners hope to add a Thursday college night for students and charge a $5 cover. Weekend admission will rise to $6.
Jones and Maddox have higher expenses, they explained. The rent in the old Penney's building is more, but not too much more than it was at the smaller space at the shopping center. They hope to sub-let the old Penney's building on certain days and weeknights for aerobics classes, bingo and other activities.
The property is owned by Young Soo Kim of Ellicott City, who also plans to convert the basement to offices.
On club nights, Jones and Maddox expect to bring all their young regulars back, and more.
"It's very similar to a regular club. It's noisy," Jones said. "I'd say they're more into dancing than at a regular bar. I don't know if it's because they're kids or they're not drinking."
And, as at regular bars, there are bouncers. "You get kids showing up who have been drinking. Or you get kids fighting over girlfriends," Jones explained. "You've definitely got to have crowd control."