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Bourbon Street draws eclectic crowd

An evening at Bourbon Street night club is rather like a visit at the home of a buddy with a knock-out game room, a well-stocked bar, a lot of musician friends and a very large family.

The only difference is, you pay for your drinks, and if the party starts to drag, you can leave guilt-free.

Fortunately, the party rarely drags at Bourbon Street.

Up front in the 8,000-square-foot club are 10 pool tables (some coin-operated, some by the hour) and a long bar with four televisions overhead. Tables, a trio of dart boards, more pool tables, foosball and a couple of video games fill the center of the club. Behind all that lies a good-sized stage with a primo sound system and a roomy dance floor.

"I ripped out the low ceilings and am going for that exposed, warehouse look," said Greg Serio, co-owner of Bourbon Street since June 1998. The walls and ceiling are painted black.

Serio has tried a variety of drawing cards, but recently settled on a "concert club" feel. He started bringing in regional and national acts Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays - the Artimus Pyle Band, Damon Fowler, Sean Chambers, Sarasota Slim and, coming Sept. 29, blues legend Hubert Sumlin, plus a variety of area dance bands.

Around the dance floor is a wide railing with bar stools, just right for single music lovers to get perfect sound and view without being disturbed.

"There are nights when I don't have people dancing," Serio said. "Other times, like when the Swingin' Mooks are here, everyone is dancing."

Either way, "Our focus is on live entertainment," Serio said.

Cover charge is $3 on Thursdays and $5 on Fridays and Saturdays for age 21 and older, $5 and $7 for age 20 and younger. The two-tier system encourages a more mature clientele, but it isn't prohibitive for the younger set. It also discourages people wandering in and out all evening. Shows start at 8:30 p.m. Thursdays and 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Patrons range in age from the proverbial 9 to 90 _ really. Parents and kids shoot pool and throw darts in the unofficial "family" area, while singles and couples of all ages dance, shoot pool, sip beer and soft drinks, munch wings, burgers or other finger fare, gab, or sit and listen to the band of the evening.

Dress is casual. Jeans are popular, especially around the pool tables. Biker gear (and bikers) can also be spotted, quietly mingling in the eclectic crowd, as can seniors in Bermuda shorts, midlife men and women in knit shirts and chinos, and teens and young adults in bell bottoms and crop tops.

Starting Sept. 28, the club will have free line dancing lessons 7-8:30 p.m. every other Thursday, just before country rock band Wiley Fox takes the stage for a 3-hour set. The other two Thursdays are reserved for blues musicians.

Tuesdays are for "the younger crowd," Serio said, meaning 18 and older. Starting Sept. 27, Wednesdays will feature the house band, Groove Altar.

And, starting Sunday, every Sunday will be comedy night.