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EURO-STYLE DANCE CLUB TO AIM FOR COLLEGE SET <br> CROCE'S FRANKLIN ST. SITE TO PUSH WAREHOUSE THEME

Buffalo entrepreneur Mark Croce plans to add a Euro-style dance club to his ever-growing roster of downtown restaurants and bars.

The Warehaus will debut later this year in a former warehouse complex at 294 Franklin St.

"I think the market is wide open for something like this there," Croce said. "There are a couple of bars in Buffalo with dance floors and DJs, but this is going to be an over-the-top dance destination."

The warehouse-themed club will feature a massive dance floor, plus a raised stage and catwalk areas. Continuing with the industrial bent, a 160-foot-long, overhead conveyor system will deliver cases of beer and other supplies to the main bar. The entire club is 10,000 square feet.

"The elevated DJ booth will be positioned so that it looks like it's a plant supervisor's office. It will look like the DJ is up there running the place with the conveyor moving by," Croce said.

The club, located just south of West Tupper Street, will target the 21- to 30-year-old crowd with its industrial atmosphere and mix of high-energy hip-hop and Top 40 dance music. Croce said he particularly wants to attract the local college crowd.

"I want to go hard after the UB, Buff State and Canisius population. I'm going to offer them an alternative to the same-old, same-old bars they're hanging out at along Main Street, Elmwood Avenue and Chippewa Street. It going to be an escape from the ordinary," he said.

Croce's leap into the dance club business is certainly a departure from his self-described "restaurant row," which lines Franklin Street between Chippewa and Tupper streets. That roster includes: the upscale Buffalo Chophouse, just-opened Laughlin's Beef & Barrel, Brownstone Seafood House & Oyster Bar and D'Arcy McGee's Irish Pub.

But the Warehaus will bring Croce full circle to the days of the Coliseum, the multi-floored, Romanesque dance and party complex that launched his downtown entertainment empire back in 1996.

"In a way, I'm feeding the entertainment cycle by reaching out to a younger crowd," said Croce, who now counts original Coliseum patrons among his patrons at Buffalo Chophouse and Brownstone.

"Now they're successful accountants and lawyers, so I need to create a new farm club to start bringing up the next generation of customers," he said.

While he's putting the final touches on blueprints for the Warehaus, Croce also is working on plans for an as-yet-unnamed pizzeria he wants to open next door to the Brownstone. The pizza place will offer sit-down and take-out orders and a drive-through window to service hungry, homeward-bound downtown workers. An indoor bocce court will provide a way to work off post-meal calories.

He also continues to contemplate a revival of the long-ago Chez Ami supper club, which originally was planned for The Warehaus site. Croce, who has expressed interest in developing a vacant lot now owned by M&T Bank on Pearl Street, directly behind Shea's Performing Arts Center, could transfer the ambitious Chez Ami project to that site if he's the successful bidder for the property.

e-mail: slinstedt@buffnews.com

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