PLATTSBURGH — Teens and pre-teens in the area have limited options when it comes to entertainment and ways to spend their free time.
Sue Lacoursiere, owner of LA’s Teen Club and Lounge in Plattsburgh, and her manager, Yvonne Lacoursiere, recognized that need to serve kids ages 10 through 17.
“They’re the most vulnerable,” Yvonne said.
What’s more, babysitting is expensive, and parents want their children to have a safe, fun place to hang out so they can stay out of trouble, Sue said.
Sue and Yvonne used their personal savings to start the club, which is located at 5131 U.S. Avenue in Plattsburgh (next to Latitude 44), at the beginning of May.
But their funds ran out quickly.
“We’re fighting now to start August,” said Yvonne, a nurse’s aide at CVPH.
It takes about $3,000 a month, including rent, to keep LA’s going, Yvonne said.
They are holding a continuous bottle drive to help with costs.
Other than the fixtures already in place, such as the bar, the Lacoursieres started with a blank slate. They brought in a pool table, dart board, Play Station 3, Wii game system, a foosball table, tables, chairs and Sue’s DJ equipment to create an environment that would attract teens.
The club saw 53 young people on July 28, their biggest turnout yet.
Sue has experience in the nightlife field, as she previously managed a billiard hall that families frequented, and she and Yvonne worked to create an attractive club scene that’s appealing to teens.
The black bar, dark-red walls and dim lights make for a fun, relaxed atmosphere.
“We wanted them to feel grown up,” Sue said.
Teens and pre-teens sipped sodas and energy drinks Saturday evening, shortly after the club opened at 6 p.m. They talked with friends as they listened to the latest hits and waited for more people to arrive.
“Other than going to camp and 4-H, this is what I do,” said Abby Leggett, 15, of West Chazy.
“She would live here if I let her,” said Abby’s mother, Carol Leggett.
Carol is happy her daughter found a safe, fun place to hang out with her friends.
“That’s why I love it.”
Carol has met Sue and Yvonne and she sometimes helps chaperone.
The best part is that Sue and Yvonne truly care about every child that goes to LA’s, Carol said.
“It’s nice to know the person on the inside cares” and is looking out for her child, she said.
The reputations of other teen clubs in the area has made it difficult for parents to trust LA’s, Sue and Yvonne said.
To build trust, they encourage parents and children interested in going to LA’s to stop in and meet them or even stay and help out for a night.
Initially, Sabrina Breyette of Plattsburgh was skeptical of the teen club and lounge when her 14-year-old son, Dante DeLong, told her about it.
But once she saw it for herself, she said, “I was amazed how well the kids got along and how they interacted.”
And spending time at LA’s has improved her son’s social skills and lessened his shyness, Breyette said.
“His attitude toward family life and friends has improved,” she added.
Sue said she has been told that there is some unhealthy competition and animosity among teens who attend different schools in the area.
“Once you get behind these doors, it’s a little tricky at first,” she said, but then everyone gets along and has a good time together, she said.
“It’s a community-wide thing.”
“People who won’t talk one day, they’ll start talking another day,” and they eventually make new friends, he said.
Nine-year-old Nathan Duso’s mother, Tamara McGorgre, is a friend of Sue and Yvonne’s and often brings him to the club, he said.
He was shooting pool Saturday evening at LA’s.
Sue taught him how to play, she said.
“I find it (LA’s) very fun and good,” he said.
SAFETY A PRIORITY
Sue and Yvonne have found some simple rules make LA’s a safe place for kids to spend their free time.
There is a strict no-alcohol, no-drug policy at LA’s. And attendees must bring their bags to a designated area behind the bar upon arrival to ensure everyone’s safety, Sue said.
A Plattsburgh City Police officer usually patrols the area on Friday and Saturday nights to make sure it is safe and secure, Sue said.
The club requires each youth to have a ride home by closing time since Yvonne and Sue will not allow anyone to wait outside by themselves or walk around alone.
Refreshments are available for purchase. The bar offers soda, assorted juices and energy drinks, Sue said. Candy, nachos and other snacks are also for sale.
Sue deejays on Friday and Saturday nights starting at 8 p.m. and there are singing, dancing and PS3 contests held regularly.
Sue, Yvonne, Carol and Sabrina are hoping LA’s will stay afloat.
For the time being, the doors remain open, and Yvonne and Sue continue to act as mentors to the young people who frequent their club.
“If we can give them a safe environment to be themselves and have fun — that’s all we want to do,” Yvonne said.
Admission to LA’s is $5. Regular hours are Wednesday and Thursday from 6 to 10 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 6 p.m. to midnight.
For more information, go to www.facebook.com/lasteenclub or call (518) 310-0810.
To help with the bottle drive, drop bottles off at LA’s Teen Club and Lounge during regular business hours or in the gated outdoor area.