Underage club in search of an audience
The dance floors are spacious but uncrowded at Tahoe City’s underage nightclub, the Deep End, where business remains sluggish, according to owner JoJo Saunders.
Though the club opened in the fall with a “big bang,” bringing in some 200 patrons nightly between the ages of 15 to 20 years old, Saunders said only about 40 to 50 youths are walking in the doors on recent Saturday nights.
Saunders blames the slow traffic on the club’s late-season opening. The Deep End was slated to open in early summer, but permitting and construction delayed the grand opening until September.
“By opening at the end of summer, those three [delayed] months have pretty much put us almost a year behind,” Saunders said Friday by phone.
Word about the youth night spot is just getting out, Saunders said, especially among visitors who are just now discovering the underage club.
“Right now, we’re still playing catch up, trying to get everyone to know about the club,” he said.
Tahoe City Downtown Association Executive Assistant Kelly Atchley said that while an underage club is a needed opportunity for local youths, the business’ limited clientele does not fit Tahoe City’s economy.
“I think what they’re doing is really a great idea,” Atchley said. “It’s just a really specialized market, which makes it difficult.”
The club is competing against the very thing it does not serve ” alcohol.
“We could have made a hell of a lot more money if we had decided to go with the alcohol,” Saunders said. “But this was all done for the kids.”
After comparing notes, Saunders, his staff and local parents have learned that some kids were using the Deep End as a cover when they were in fact attending another party where booze was available.
“This is not what we want,” Saunders said. “The idea of the Deep End was an alternative to going out to the parties. We’re still competing with alcohol even though we don’t serve it … that’s sort of a tough one to overcome.”
The Deep End will now distribute signed and dated cards to their patrons as proof for parents that their kids were actually where they said they were.
It’s no surprise that a new business in Tahoe City is struggling.
“It’s a new business,” Saunders said. “And I mean all new businesses have financial stress.”
To make up for the economic loss, Saunders is considering ways to expand revenue and keep the Deep End afloat until the summer’s tourism provides an influx of patrons.
Saunders said he’s thinking of launching a toddler dance afternoon for younger kids and their parents. The owners also hope to work out a plan that would benefit both parents and their teenage children ” giving the kids a safe place to hang out, while the parents have a night to themselves.
Whatever strategy the Deep End comes up with, Saunders said he’s committed to the cause.
“[An underage club] is something [kids] really need,” he said. “There’s a market for it, and it will be profitable once it gets going. … Times are tough right now. ‘Course, times are tough for everyone.”
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