For the Young at Heart

Underage nightclubs are certainly not a new concept, as operators in almost every part of the country have attempted, with varying success, to offer either an exclusive environment for high school partygoers or allowed the under-21 crowd to mix and mingle with a drinking crowd while not actually drinking themselves. Outside of Syracuse, in Baldwinsville, N.Y., The Vault Teen Nightclub is taking a novel approach to the underage market by building a venue that caters exclusively to teens ages 16 to 18. Co-owner Lisa Severson was inspired by her own teen daughter and her friends who wanted a safe, fun place to hang out on weekends, and, understandably, Severson was uncomfortable with her 15-year-old hanging out in venues that allowed inebriated adults a chance to mix and mingle with teens. “They just hang all over the younger crowd,” Severson told the local press at the club’s opening. “They get out of control with the dancing and the touching.”

Enter The Vault. Built in an old bank and Masonic Temple, the venue features everything you might expect at a nightclub: DJ, cover charge, security team, advanced lighting system, dance floor, pool tables — everything except alcohol. Instead, the bar serves a variety of energy drinks and sodas, alongside water, candy and snacks. While it’s been open less than a month, The Vault is already creating a strong following at high schools in the Central New York area and has created a nightclub-style promotional program that rewards “Team Vault” members with $1 back in club credit for every flier and pass that gets returned to the venue. Severson says the club is catching on, and her daughter and her friends have been instrumental in the quick start. The venue offers two rooms, one serving as the bar and gaming area and the adjacent room serving as the dance floor. The Vault’s management is serious about protecting the safety of its patrons, the alcohol- and drug-free rules and even its age limit, noting that even 19-year-olds are not allowed in the venue after 9:15 p.m., let alone parents. The club also imposes a “zero tolerance policy on intimidation, harassment, provocation and any improper physical contact,” noting on its web site that, “Anyone engaging in such activity will be escorted from the building without refund.”

With a $10 cover charge (VIP passes are $20) and an average crowd of 100 high school students twice a week, the venue isn’t exactly raking it in, but management already is eyeing other areas of opportunity, ranging from private parties to after-school events. With a capacity of 500 guests, The Vault has an opportunity to do very well and the word is spreading. “We had a great time, met new people, and are planning to go back again soon,” blogged one high school senior. “This club is exactly what teens need: a place to connect in real life, in real ways. If anything, just go to grab one of many energy drinks and sodas and sit back and enjoy the break dancing,” added a sophomore of a neighboring high school.

But even teen-only nightclubs can have their issues at the door: One high-school junior said he felt shaken down for the $20 VIP cover charge, noting, “I later found out we could have gotten in for $10, but nobody told us that.” With a club for teens, inspired by teens and even staffed by teens; The Vault is offering a starter-nightclub environment to be the first club experience for almost every one of their guests.

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