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TEENS GET SAFE TASTE OF NIGHTLIFE AT CLUB CATERING ONLY TO THEM

The Club doesn't have a sign proclaiming its presence.

But it's hard to miss on the site of the old Club LaBoom and Pierce Arrow, near the intersection of Seneca and Center streets in West Seneca, on a Friday night.

It's the place with the line out the door. With guys in the youth uniforms of baggy jeans and flannel shirts, or khaki pants and baseball caps. Some of the girls are dressed for MTV, down to their minis with slits up the sides and super-tight tops. Others are just there in T-shirts and jeans.

But unlike the young crowd hitting the Chippewa Street hot spots in downtown Buffalo, the majority of these clubgoers are getting out of their parents' minivans before going in for a night out.

The Club is unique. It's the only privately operated teen-only club in Western New York, and word has spread. It's not unusual for The Club to draw 300 to 500 teens on a Friday, its busiest night. A quick survey of a couple of dozen teens on a recent night revealed that, besides the locals, they had come from Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Hamburg, Holland and Tonawanda.

For the kids, the nightspot -- open since last spring -- is a welcome diversion.

"We've been here ever since it opened, every week," said Caitlin Meegan, 14, of West Seneca, who was there with some girlfriends.

"I love this place. . . . I'd like to say the club's a very nice, supervised place for us kids to go, because we have nowhere (else) to go."

Rob Said, 19, of Buffalo, who was checking out the place for the first time, was impressed.

"I like the music, I like shooting pool," he said. "They ought to open up a place in Buffalo like this. I mean, the police here are great. They check everybody, make sure
there are no weapons being brought in or anything like that. It's pretty cool."

"There's nothing in West Seneca," said club operator Angelo Castricone, who also runs T-Birds, a Cheektowaga bar and restaurant. "Kids actually need this."

There is no alcohol sold at The Club, and off-duty police officers check the crowd as they enter. Nobody with holes in their clothes or "gang gear" is allowed in.

"Oh, they (the teens) try to sneak in a bottle of booze here and there, but it's no big deal," said Castricone, who said the nightclub has been profitable. "We've never seen drugs or anything like that. They (the security staff) pretty much watch everybody, look in their purses and that stuff."

But there are mixed opinions on how well The Club has been able to police itself.

"That's been a thorn in the side since they opened," said one neighbor, who asked not to be identified. "They put security at the doors, but outside they don't care about nothing. I said to my wife they ought to set up a (police) satellite office out there, with the rowdyism and drinking (in the parking lot)."

Another neighbor said that the only problem has sometimes been the volume of music.

The West Seneca Police Deparment blotter shows around 20 calls to The Club at 3036 Seneca St. since May. The complaints included five calls for fights, with the other ranging from purse thefts to first aid.

Most were before Police Chief John J. Miskovski met with Castricone in early October. The building is owned by Ralph Lorigo, a West Seneca lawyer.

The meeting came in the wake of an attack on a girl who was walking home from The Club at 1:30 a.m. She was dragged across Seneca Street and choked, police said. The girl said she struck her male assailant with her purse and kicked and screamed until the man gave up, and a passing motorist drove her back to the teen club, where she called police.

"The abduction happened almost a half mile from this club," said Castricone. "She came back to the club because she knew security was here."

"Mostly it was residents' complaints of the kids coming out of there, making noise, throwing the garbage around," Miskovski said of the complaints. "It was typical of when you have a business like that in the neighborhood. . . . It's way, way down (since the meeting)."

The Club hired more off-duty officers and used them to patrol the parking lot. The Club is open from 9 p.m. to around 1:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Admission of $7 includes one soft drink.

While the music is usually recorded dance music, the nightclub has also hosted some all-ages live shows.

Parents dropping off their children at The Club seemed to be satisfied with the safety measures.

Gary Zubricky said his son, Jason, had been coming to The Club for several weeks. His son was meeting eight to 10 fellow students from Timon-St. Jude High School.

"At first I wasn't really for it," Gary Zubricky said of the setting. "I got a chance and I actually walked in there the first night to see what it was like and it seemed to be pretty good. I know a lot of the kids that are coming here, and it's certainly better than them going to Caz (Cazenovia) Park for the typical Friday night drinking binges.

"We know where they are, we know who they're with. We feel pretty comfortable about the place."

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