Sykesville man wants to set up alcohol-free club to give teens a place to go

March 31, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

It doesn't seem so long ago that Carl Douglas "C.J." Archer Jr. would go to the McDonald's on Route 40 in the evening with a bottle of rum and hang out with his friends, itching for something to do.

"The parking lot was packed with kids," recalled Mr. Archer, now 22. "Kids would hang out and watch for somebody to drive by and give word of a party."

Seven years later, the Sykesville resident is scrambling to open a nonalcoholic, drug-free nightclub in Howard County for those between 14 and 20, to give them something to do and to discourage adolescent drug and alcohol use.

"A great deal of people start their bad drinking patterns at a young age," he said. "I know I did."

But Mr. Archer's dream to open Hurricane Cove this fall is far from a sure thing.

A customer relations clerk for Cigna Health Plan in Columbia, he still has to arrange the financing, along with the insurance and other paperwork, to make the club a reality.

He also needs to find a location for the proposed 5,500-square foot club, which he estimates will cost about $66,000 annually to operate, and feature a beach atmosphere, large dance floor, modern sound system, soda bar, arcade and lounge.

"I'd like to get at least 600 in there," said Mr. Archer, who plans to charge a $5 admission fee for the club, which would be open from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. on school days, and 4 p.m. to midnight on weekends.

If he can manage to pull it off, Mr. Archer is convinced that his Hurricane Cove club will provide a wholesome alternative for Howard County youngsters.

"I don't think there's any way that this business could be a detriment to this county," said Mr. Archer, who has been planning the project for about three years.

Already, the concept has won cautious support from some of those in the county concerned about youthful drinking.

Bonnie Cook, who takes over in July as president of the county's chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), said the group would support a place "where they [teen-agers] can mingle with their friends and do it in an environment where they're not pressured to drink out of boredom."

She said that a common complaint among teen-agers is that there is little to do in the county and that many young people end up drinking after school.

"I think it's important to this county and is needed very badly," she said of an alcohol-free club for young people.

But she warned that Mr. Archer may have trouble obtaining space, investors and transportation for the young adults. She also said that other communities with teen-age clubs or teen-age nights at adult clubs have reported drug use, drug sales and violence.

Mr. Archer agreed that security is an important issue, and plans to have two uniformed off-duty police officers on hand whenever the club is open, along with a metal detector, chaperones and a retired police dog to sniff for drugs.

"Violence is something that concerns me, but I think if I have cooperation from the police department, we can nip this in the bud," Mr. Archer said.

Mr. Archer also is trying to involve teen-agers in the planning of the project.

For assistance in picking music that teen-agers would want to hear at the club, he has contacted S.H.O.P., Students Helping Other People, a drug-free group in the high schools, to distribute surveys and to seek help in raising money for the club.

"We want the kids to be involved, so they'll feel it's their place," said Mr. Archer's wife, Christina.

Danielle Lowery, a senior at Hammond High School, said she would attend Hurricane Cove if she is still in the county when it opens.

"I think it's a good idea, because it will give us something to do," she said.

Danielle said she used to look forward to going to Margarita Maggie's in Columbia, which offered a teen-age night at one time. But once Margarita Maggie's eliminated its teen-age night, there was a void, she said.

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