Club to offer youths food, dancing but no alcohol Bonkers to open Oct. 8 in Glen Burnie ANNE ARUNDEL BUSINESS

September 30, 1993|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,Staff Writer

The under-21 crowd will soon be able to boogie to techno music, without imbibing spirits, at a new nonalcoholic dance club called Bonkers.

Soda for a buck will be the drink of the day when the 7,200-square-foot club opens Oct. 8 inside the Tradersmart at the Beltway Shopping Center in Glen Burnie. Light snacks, such as hot dogs, pizza and nachos, will also go for a dollar.

A $5 admission charge, to help keep the price of food and drinks low, will be charged at the door, said Chuck Jackson, 43, who will run the club.

The Lansdowne father of a teen-age daughter, Loni, 17, and a son, Chuck Jr., 21, Mr. Jackson said the club will provide a safe environment for young people ages 16 to 20 to socialize, dance, and play pool and video games, the kind of safe entertainment he wanted for his own children.

On the walls of the club, which is still under construction, painters are sketching such cartoon characters as Ren and Stimpy. One sketch shows Ren hitting Stimpy over the head. A message above them says: "This Is Your Brains On Drugs."

Directly below, Ren is shown jamming on guitar next to his pal Stimpy. A message says: "This Is You Going Bonkers."

"I am trying to emphasize that you can still have as much fun and not get into anything like drugs or alcohol," said Mr. Jackson, who is also the manager of Tradersmart.

Troublemakers will be asked to leave the club and not return, said Mr. Jackson, adding that 10 private security people will be on hand to help keep order. Parents are welcome to come by the club and check it out, he said.

The idea for the club came easily enough. "One day I was just sitting here and I figured the kids had nowhere to go and we had all this space in Tradersmart," Mr. Jackson said. He mentioned his idea to teen-agers he saw hanging out in the area to find out whether they would be interested in such a club.

The answer was a resounding "yes," he said. His daughter and her friends, who attend Lansdowne Senior High School in Baltimore County, often come by and ask whether he needs help getting the club together. Teen-agers at local schools also have expressed interest.

But can a club, even one for teens, survive without alcohol? A similar club in Harford County, Vibrations, folded six months after it opened in August 1992, and four similar clubs in the Ocean City area have closed.

Mr. Jackson, who said he is opening the club for the teen-agers, not for profit, remains unswayed. And other clubs have succeeded. There is Nite Lite, an under-21, nonalcoholic dance club in Ocean City. And the Worcester Street club, which plays everything from rap and hip-hop to techno music, has been around since spring 1985, although it is open only seasonally.

Those familiar with running nonalcoholic teen dance clubs said their success often hinges on not just opening up the doors and telling teens to come on it, but in finding a niche.

Art Wilson, co-owner of Soundsations, a nonalcoholic club on U.S. 50 in Annapolis that has been closed for renovations since August, said the trick is playing to your audience.

"You just have to know how to deal with kids," said Mr. Wilson, who opened Soundsations eight years ago. "Most clubs fail because they try to have an adult club for kids, and that doesn't work."

Chuck Kiessling, 36, who has a one-month old plant shop in Tradersmart and owns Continental Landscaping, said that as a parent, he hopes Bonkers will find its niche. He also thinks it is a good business idea.

The club will give teens an alter native to hanging out at adult clubs, often lying about their ages to get in, said Mr. Kiessling, who lives in Glen Burnie.

His children, daughter Carrie, 14, and son Chuck Jr., 13, "are just starting into the teen scene, and I would like to feel they have a place where they can go and I'm not worried about them," he said.

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