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Langley's teen dance club hits sour note with neighbours

Teenagers appear to be having a good time, but so far, neighbours aren't overly impressed with a new dance club for 14 to 18 year-olds, which opened last weekend in the former Legion building on Eastleigh Crescent.

Vancouver's Ultimate Dance Club is billed as a place for underage teens to dance and party with their friends in an alcohol-free environment, but after two nights of loud music and noisy spillover from the club some area residents have already had enough.

One woman who has lived half a block from the site of the new club for 12 years doesn't want to move, but said with the events of last weekend, it could come to that.

Noise, profanity, public drunkenness, open drug use and vandalism are among the problems she reports witnessing after two nights of operation.

The woman reported seeing a group of intoxicated boys smoking pot and kicking in a fence outside her residence around 10 p.m. on Saturday. She has no doubt they were connected to the club, because she saw them leave the building.

"It scared me and I'm a 36-year-old woman," she said.

The arrival of the club will change the way the woman and her 14-year-old daughter live, she said.

"I've told my daughter she's not allowed to take the dog out after 6 p.m. by herself on a Friday or Saturday night. She's basically a prisoner in her own home."

And the noise from the dance hall has shattered what was a very peaceful neighbourhood at night, the woman said.

"That building is 60 years old. It's not well insulated. I could hear the bass at midnight, 1 a.m."

While she said she knows the vast majority of teens are good people, the club has attracted another group as well, she believes.

"They've brought in an element we don't need here."

She has called the police, City Hall and the owners of the property (Marcon Development) to complain about the noise levels and activities going on outside the dance club, which is surrounded by apartment blocks and townhouses along Eastleigh Crescent and 56 Avenue.

She said nobody spoke to her or any other neighbours that she's aware of about the club before it opened.

"If they'd have asked us, we'd have said 'hell, no.'"

There was no requirement for the business operators to notify neighbours of their plan to open a dance club, said City CAO Frances Cheung.

He said the municipality is aware of the concerns, but added there was no option but to issue a business licence, because the club meets the "assembly use" zoning bylaw requirements for the property.

"We can't deny them a business licence if they meet the bylaw requirement," he said.

The City has already received "several" noise complaints related to the dance club, Cheung said on Monday.

"We have let the operator become aware of our concerns," he said.

The one recourse the City has if the club does not address the concerns laid out in the complaint would be to revoke its business licence. That last happened in the City in 2007, when the Tourist Inn's business licence was revoked for numerous bylaw infractions that went unaddressed.

That process took "a long time," Cheung conceded.

It was also an extreme case, in which neighbours endured open drug dealing, prostitution, domestic violence, late-night parties, drunken brawls, littered drug and sex paraphernalia, overflowing garbage and intimidation from the building's tenants for four years, before the motel was shut down. It has since reopened under new owners, and there have been no reported problems.

However, due process must be followed, Cheung said.

"We have to give (club owners) the opportunity to address this. They've been given notice."

In the meantime, the City can ticket the club for any noise bylaw infractions or for nuisance issues if problems spill onto public property.

If there are, in fact, drugs and alcohol being consumed on the site, that would fall to the police to address, he said.

According to police, that was the case.

Among the issues related to the club that officers  dealt with over the weekend were underage drinking, drug use and noise complaints.

At 8:30 p.m. on Friday, police arrived to find "many teenagers 'pre-drinking' in the parking lot of the club."

They also caught two men, a 19-year-old from Surrey and an 18-year-old Langley man, smoking marijuana behind the building.

Two 17-year-olds were ejected from the club — one for being intoxicated, the other for causing a disturbance. The second man admitted he'd consumed half a 26-ounce bottle of liquor before entering the club.

Police also received at least three separate noise complaints. Langley RCMP indicated they will "continue to monitor the situation."

Richard Welch, a senior who lives in another apartment building near the club, was voicing concerns about the club before it opened.

He said last week that a large percentage of the people living in the Town and Country complex, across 56 Avenue from the dance club, are seniors who were not happy to learn that a dance club was going in to the old Legion hall.

"The people in this building are furious," he said.

"It seems incredible to me that something like this could happen in Langley."

It will be especially bad in the summer, he believes, when people want to be able to leave their windows open at night.

Some of his neighbours have already decided they'll have to move, Welch said.

"Anybody with any sense at all would know this would be controversial.

"That it was done so quick and so hush-hush is what annoys me. It's just not a good idea to begin with."

Welch voiced his concerns to City Councillor Rudy Storteboom, who lives in a condo complex on Fraser Highway.

While Storteboom said he was previously not aware of the plan to open the teen dance club, he said last week that it could, in fact, turn out to be a good thing."

"(Mr. Welch) has concerns, I understand. It's change, it's young people."

But Storteboom said it would be wrong to discriminate based on age.

"If it becomes a problem, we'll deal with it, but we have to give them a chance."

Storteboom said he'd have no problem if a similar club were to open near his building.

"I live just down the street from Gabby's (Country Cabaret) and there's a supermarket across the street that's open till midnight.

"It's just a part of urban living," he said. "We have to get along as density increases."

Meanwhile, the dance club's Facebook site is rapidly filling up with comments from teens who were at the club on the weekend or are planning to come out in the next few weeks. While some described it as "crazy" and "awesome," one poster remarked that "the sercurity are the sickest sh** ever there (sic) so awesome you can go loaded out of your tree and still get in."

Amber, a Grade 11 student who was in the club on Friday night, texted in response to questions about the opening weekend: "There weren't that many drunk ppl. It went pretty smooth, actually, the music was just kinda loud, I guess."

 

James Thom, the owner-operator of Vancouver's Ultimate Dance Club, did not return phone calls before deadline.

 

 

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