Energy (but little booze) flows at college-friendly Voltage Nightclub

Megaclub next to Baltimore Travel Plaza draws the under-21 set with dancing

  • The line outside Voltage Nightclub, near the Baltimore Travel Plaza.
The line outside Voltage Nightclub, near the Baltimore Travel… (Colby Ware, for The Baltimore…)
April 24, 2013|Wesley Case

The tip came from a Towson student almost finished her sophomore year. A former sorority member who decided Greek Life wasn't for her, the student said Towson could be boring because parties seemed like they were filled with "all of the same people."

But recently, her friends were raving about Voltage Nightclub, the 12,000-square-foot club peculiarly located next to the Baltimore Travel Plaza right outside of Canton. It didn't matter to these students that Voltage, which opened in October, was once a Greyhound terminal or that it's located away from the city's hopping nightlife scenes.

All that mattered was they could get into Voltage's College Nights on Thursdays and "Club Life" parties on Saturday. Finally, their college IDs — and not the state-issued IDs they get when they turn 21 — were enough.

On a recent Saturday night, Voltage looked like a 20-year-old's dream: The massive nightclub — billed as the city's biggest on Voltage's website — was filled with young bodies in constant motion. The crowd of approximately 200 gyrated, swayed and grinded for hours. The majority that we saw did not sip, chug or throw back a shot. The lack of consumption did not seem to hinder anyone's time. We saw no altercations or signs of disruption; just couples, groups of friends and potential hook-up partners dancing their concerns away. Some were likely older than 21, but many appeared not.

If Voltage's warehouse-like dance floor is a hormonal teenager's heaven, then the club's security process is purgatory. The Voltage bouncers were thorough to the point where we wondered if we were actually boarding an airplane instead of gaining access to T-Pain songs. A bouncer warned a non-confrontational friend that he might not be allowed in because he answered, "Yes," he had been drinking earlier in the day. Another friend's allergy medicine was confiscated. A $10 cover added insult to injury.

But once we walked in, the arduous clearance process quickly turned to a forgotten memory. With a booming sound system, an elevated dance stage measuring 16 feet by 25 feet, a marquee projection screen and a spastic light show, Voltage almost overwhelms at first. But our senses adjusted quickly, revealing a space large enough to house a club with all of the bells and whistles.

DJ Jason Cruz, who spent his Fridays and Saturdays this past summer spinning at Seacrets, played the upbeat, house-meets-pop hits usually heard on Z104.3. There were mash-ups for the A.D.D. crowd and dancehall songs for those looking to slow it down, ever so slightly, to flirt. Even the cheesy club songs, such as V.I.C.'s "Wobble Baby," worked in the context of Voltage.

Voltage has three bars, but only needed two on this Saturday. From 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., we had no trouble getting a bartender's attention, further emphasizing the fact that many patrons were not 21. We should have arrived between 9-11 p.m., since beer bottles (Voltage lacks taps) were then only a quarter. By the time we got there, a Bud Light was $4.50.

Voltage appears to make money from its cover charges. After 11 p.m. on a Thursday, it costs $15 to step inside, and if you have a college ID, it's $12. That's why Voltage can offer deals other Baltimore bars don't, such as all-night open bar for $5 on Thursdays and ladies-drink-free nights on Fridays.

I suspect there are readers rolling their eyes at Voltage Nightclub. Perhaps they have safety concerns or just find a nightclub with an under-21 crowd silly and unappealing. But Voltage provided an enjoyable time on that Saturday night because it wasn't a typical, overcrowded Baltimore pub. Voltage may not innovate — and it may not need to — but it lived up to the "nightclub" billing, which was refreshing enough. At the very least, there are worse places college students could spend a night.

Voltage Nightclub

Back story: Former Iguana Cantina owner Tim Bennett spent a year-and-a-half remodeling the old bus terminal at Baltimore Travel Plaza. The result, Voltage Nightclub, opened in October, and has quickly become a hit with college students, especially those not yet 21.

Parking: There is ample free parking in Voltage's large lot. There should always be a designated driver, but Voltage is a place not to press your luck, as there are multiple police officers stationed in front of the club. Also, there are no cabs waiting outside to take groups home, so plan accordingly. It took 25 minutes to flag a cab down from O'Donnell Street, and it wasn't even originally heading to Voltage.

Signature drink: A basic assortment of beer bottles and standard mixed drinks. On a Saturday night after 11 p.m., a Bud Light was $4.50.

Where: 5625 O'Donnell St., Medford (next to Baltimore Travel Plaza)

Contact: 443-708-5265,

Open: 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Thursday-Saturday

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