Youths may hit `Rock Bottom’ and like it |

Youths may hit `Rock Bottom’ and like it

John Colson

Aspen’s “young adults” may have a late-night hangout to call theirown as early as next month, if things go according to plan.A group led by local developer John Sarpa is hoping to open the”Rock Bottom,” an alcohol-free nightclub, sometime in early April.The club is slated for the basement space beneath The Rock, anightclub on the Hyman Avenue Mall.The club, which could hold up to 300 people or so, is meant tobe a haven for those ages 15 to 20, or maybe 16 to 20 – the club’screators are still trying to figure out what their target agegroup should be.Sarpa said he has enlisted the support “across the board” of localadults, including the enthusiastic support of the local schooladministration, the police, and a countywide group that is workingon youth issues.That support, Sarpa said, has included a number of “people withdeep pockets” who have offered to donate money to get the clubup and running.He said he has secured the free use of the basement space fromthe building’s owners, Frank Goldsmith and Sam Houston, for Fridaynights from 9 p.m. until midnight for an indefinite period.The club idea, Sarpa said, has been in the works since January,when he went to Denver for his daughter Emily’s 16th birthdayparty.When he and an entourage of teenaged girls were unable to findan under-21 club after seeing a stage show, Sarpa said, “I hadtwelve very disgruntled fifteen- and sixteen-year-old young ladies.”They had a lot to say about “the lack of things for teens to doin Aspen,” added Sarpa.On his return to Aspen, Sarpa started casting about for a venueto give local kids something to do at night, and wound up withthe basement of The Rock.Sarpa is candid about the possibility of failure for the club,conceding that similar efforts have not done well in the past.In particular, the Aspen Youth Center has characteristically failedto attract high schoolers to its events, although it is popularwith somewhat younger kids.But, he said this week, he has enlisted the help of a number oflocal youths to come up with ideas about how the club should bemanaged and promoted, and plans to form a board of directors torun the operation that will include a number of young people.”This really must be genuinely `owned’ by them, or it won’t work,”he said, pointing out that whenever such facilities are put togetherby “a bunch of old guys,” they fail. He said the kids have formedcommittees to handle various aspects of the creative process,including publicity, and that some have become closely involvedwith the business end of setting things up.”Our objective is to get the thing up and running, have it besuccessful as a safe place for kids … I mean, young adults,to have good fun,” he said.But, he added, “This is a temporary situation.” The building’sowners, he said, undoubtedly will be looking for some sort ofpaying tenants or profitable endeavor for the space at some point.When that happens, Sarpa said, he hopes to have established RockBottom as a thriving alternative for local youths in search ofsomething fun to do. The goal at that point will be to find another,more permanent locale for the club.Looking for ideas, Sarpa said he has been consulting with otheryouth clubs around the West, and has formed a kind of organizationalfriendship with one called The Spot in Denver, run by former DenverBronco David Stalls.Sarpa said he is starting his fund-raising campaign as soon ashe has an operating budget in hand, and has begun searching for20-something individuals to fill several key jobs, including manager,bartenders, security personnel and disc jockey.

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