Barhoppers in training? Howard County: In trying to solve a problem, teen nightclub would create many more.

November 01, 1995

A SYKESVILLE businessman's proposal to build a teen nightclub in North Laurel is sure to win the hearts of many young people, who have complained that they have little to do in Howard County.

But it is also sure to alarm many adults, particularly parents, who will view this more as a money-making venture for its creator than as wholesome entertainment for their kids. We have to side with the adults this time, whom we suspect are right on the money in fearing that a nightclub for 14- to 18-year olds presents more negatives than positives.

There are many competing interests in the lives of young people today, and illegal alcohol use too often is among them. While Carl Douglas Archer Jr.'s plan is to serve non-alcoholic beverages at the North Laurel site he has picked out for his nightclub, everything else about the proposed facility would seem to encourage otherwise. Mr. Archer's enterprise could in effect serve as a training ground for future barhoppers, familiarizing them in a lifestyle that many parents would prefer they avoid, at least for as long as possible.

Given the proposed size of Mr. Archer's club -- 3,225 square feet and serving up to 300 young people a night -- the potential for trouble looms large. The idea that this will just be a nice venue for youths to enjoy hip-hop music and play video games should not be obscured by the fact that Mr. Archer is promising metal detectors and off-duty police officers as security guards. Some youths, unfortunately, will skirt the rules. The potential for things to get out of hand increases in proportion to the size of the facility.

At 24, Mr. Archer talks about how well he remembers being a teen-ager in Howard County just a few years ago. His nightclub, he says, will keep youths off the street, where they have a greater potential for doing harm. Laudable goals. Still, we wonder how he'll feel when he is a little older and perhaps has children of his own who are about to embark on this sometimes difficult stage of life.

All of this does not address one major point that is forefront on the minds of officials at the Jim Rouse Entrepreneurial Fund, where Mr. Archer has gone seeking a $50,000 loan. Teen nightclubs have been tried before in Howard County, without success. Why makes him think he can succeed where others have failed?

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