BY MIKI MEEK
In the chaos of flashing red lights, motion, and loud music, Scott Campbell moves his body to the beat of the Jackson 5’s “I want you back” on a dance floor ruled by college girls in strappy tank tops, tight jeans and platform shoes. It’s Ladies’ Night at the only dance club in Utah County.
For Campbell, 23, a UVSC student who moved from Oregon two weeks ago, this is his first appearance at Club Omni in Provo. Competing against a blaring sound system that vibrates the wood floor, he yells, “The dancing in Provo is great.”
However, some local college students and club owners say Happy Valley still has a long way to go before it can even challenge the dancing in Salt Lake City.
“If you want to go to a club, it’s better to travel out of Provo,” said Jodi Severson, 18, a freshman from Provo, majoring in construction management.
“In Salt Lake you meet a lot more new people, plus it’s good to get out.”
On Friday nights at The Bay, a dance club in Salt Lake City, it’s not unusual for more than 1,000 college students to pack three dance floors and form lines outside the door, Manager Jason Bond said.
“We see a lot of BYU activity cards come through when we’re checking for I.D.,” he said. “I think people from Utah County like going to a dance club in a different city with different atmosphere.”
Dance clubs in Salt Lake City cater to different music tastes and have diverse crowds, said Stacey Tachiki, 21, a University of Utah student from Payson, Utah County. She also said the environment is more social than Provo, which makes it easier to get to know people and make new friends.
“Night life in Provo is dead,” said Ken Merena, owner of Club Omni.
Although the local dance club has complied with community and BYU standards by enforcing a no alcohol and no smoking policy to draw bigger crowds, Merena said business from local college students is still mediocre.
“They say there’s nothing to do and then when you give them something they won’t pay for it. You can’t be cheap if you want entertainment and we only charge $5,” he said.
After a $30,000 payroll every month, payments for a $500,000 mortgage on the building and thousands of dollars for advertising, there are no profits and the club breaks even, Merena said.
At the drink bar, the Omni makes 17 cents a head and only every 10th person who walks through the door buys a soda, he said. This makes it a difficult to bring in extra revenue.
Troy Gifford, manager of the night club Atchafalya, would like to see a variety of dance clubs sprout up in Provo, but he said that could be difficult in a city with a conservative stance on entertainment.
The options will only improve if the Provo residents can expand their views of what is acceptable, he said.
However, it’s unlikely that the community will soften their standards or stop voicing their opinions at City Council meetings on what they consider suitable entertainment, said Emily Eyre, business development specialist for Provo City.
New entertainment venues are filtering into the area and the city is already considering plans for a cultural arts center and baseball stadium with the recent surge in commercial and residential growth.