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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Refreshing new biz for local kidz

“I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good night
That tonight’s gonna be a good good night”

Sitting there, listening to the Black Eyed Peas belt out their 2009 hit song, I got the same feeling.

Only, it wasn’t about tonight.

It was about today. And the future.

Yes, I realize that today is Judgment Day — the day many have proclaimed to be the end of the world.


It’s also Opening Day!

Not for baseball. That was more than a month ago. Pay attention, people!

No, today is Opening Day for a brand new kind of entertainment venue in Lake County.

And, sadly, I can’t go there!

I’m too old.

At 11 a.m., Stagez opens to serve its public — those in middle school and high school.

Kerrianne DiLorenzo Simon and Lisa Keller, who are family friends of mine, have created a special spot for area youngsters to hang out that is free from the pressures the children of today face.

There’s no alcohol. There are no adults who don’t work there. They can’t come and go as they please.

In other words, those who head to Stagez, 7597 Mentor Ave., Mentor, with their friends can dance, play a few games and have a snack.

Anyone who scoffs at the safety pledges from the staff can actually see them in writing, on the club’s handouts for parents, and on the website, at

“The police will be called, in a timely manner, anytime management or staff has information to believe a crime has been or is about to be committed and/or whenever a threat of or act of violence occurs on the premises or off premises in areas that would be considered in view or earshot of the establishment.”

If parents are concerned, they can stay and check out the action via a closed-circuit television in another room. Off-duty Mentor Police will be on hand to patrol inside the facility, including the bathrooms and in the parking lots.

Simon and Keller have thought of everything, which is what happens when you spend 14 months planning.

Even the name was a big undertaking.

Simon said as the pair came up with ideas, people would point out that they were either taken, or inappropriate for one reason or another.

When she was driving to visit her husband at work one day in Painesville, she passed Stage Avenue. She did a double-take, and thought it was a good idea, because those the club serves are going through different stages in their lives.

“We can do everything here,” Simon said Thursday at a pre-opening party. “Bereavement parties, baby showers ... we can lead you through all the stages of your life.”

I asked why they opted for the unusual spelling.

“Anything with a Z is cool these days,” Simon said with a laugh.

Those who attend the club receive a $5 discount if they apply for a “Back Stagez Pass.” It costs $15 to enter without the pass.

Simon said the pass is intended to get the parents involved.

“We have their contact information if there is trouble,” she said.

Parents must accompany youngsters on their first visit to be able to use the pass. Then, if there are problems, they get a call to head to Stagez to pick up their child.

I asked Simon whether she worries about becoming a baby-sitting service. She shook her head and said no.

“If they behave, then I don’t mind,” she said. “If they don’t, we have (their parents’) contact information.”

If my 90 minutes mingling with a crowd of all ages are any indication, kids will love the place.

Stagez has a great sound system and a huge dance floor ready for youngsters to take over.

Those of us old enough to remember the Cosmopolitan and Utopia in Willoughby will understand the reasons Stagez is different — the youngsters aren’t exposed to alcohol or the bad influences of the older generations that came with the movement from room to room.

The new club has nights set up to accommodate each group — Friday nights are for middle-schoolers; Saturdays are for high school age kids. The rest of the time, Wednesday and Thursday nights and during the daytime on Saturday and Sunday, it’s the two groups combined.

Here’s hoping my friends are successful. Goodness knows we in this area need some new businesses to lead us into the future.

“I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night”


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