Back then, there were five different teen clubs around the south suburbs that were destinations for high schoolers. They were safe, fun and kept kids from relieving their own boredom with alcohol and drugs or by simply getting into trouble, he said.
Now, Marcanio wanted to re-create that environment where teens today could hang out with their friends and have a place of their own but still be safe.
READ: Teen Night Club Coming to Oak Forest? Maybe
That desire for a safe haven for Oak Forest kids was the inspiration behind Marcanio opening Oxygen Teen Nite Club. But even before one foot could hit the club's dance floor, city residents had already made their minds up about the venue. And it wasn't favorable, Marcanio said.
"We got convicted before we committed a crime," said Marcanio, who owns other suburban Chicago businesses, including At the Office Sports Bar and Grill in Crestwood.
The Oak Forest City Council approved the teen night club December of last year. But even before the vote, the businessman began hearing complaints from residents, claiming the venue would attract gangs and other criminal elements. Even safeguards the club was providing for its young clientele became proof of danger for critics.
For instance, some questioned the club's use of off-duty Cook County Sheriff's Officers for security. Isn't that admitting to an expectation of danger?
Marcanio disagrees, saying it's being proactive and prudent. He hired officers for that detail because of the experience they've acquired from their day job when it comes to handling people and defusing situations before they become trouble. The officers scan IDs at the door and use metal detector wands on customers, he said. Security measures also extend to the bathroom and meshed-in, outdoor, smoking area where attendants are present (customers must be 18 or older to be in the smoking area).
READ: City Council Breathes Life Into Oxygen Teen Nite Club
Besides being a profitable business and a fun place for teens, Marcanio also wants to Oxygen to be a good corporate citizen in Oak Forest. He would like to hold benefits and fundraisers for local causes—something he's be able to do with his Crestwood bar—and hold special post-homecoming and post-prom events for the local high schools. The club also is diversifying by offering Zumba fitness classes starting in September.
Despite these good intentions, Marcanio said the club isn't being given the benefit of the doubt. Some of it, he admits, has to deal with the Catch-22 created by the expectations and perceptions of two separate groups. The 6,100 square-foot venue, with its granite bars, 12,000-watt sound system and VIP seating, needs to have the authenticity of a downtown nightclub (even if it's not) in order to attract the teens. But that's something that makes parents and adults uneasy. And they're idea of an after-hours spot with a less-adult look is not something that will lure in young customers.
"I don't know. I don't think I can get a fair shake," Marcanio said, adding that he wants a level of transparency when it comes to showing the public how Oxygen operates. "Our doors are open for parents or anyone to come in anytime."
Oxygen had its "soft" opening June 28, and it recently shut down in order to prepare for and promote its official grand re-opening Sept. 14.
Oxygen Teen Nite ClubWhere: 5200 W. 159th St.
On the Web: Go to Oxygen's website and its Facebook page for more information about upcoming events and opportunities.
Grand Re-Opening and Back to School Bash
When: 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14
What to Expect: It's a Stop Light Party event. Club-goers who are single wear green, while those who are in a relationship wear red. Attendees who wear yellow mean they're taken but tempted.
More Info: Register at Oxygen's website.
When: The begin Tuesday, Sept. 10, and run Tuesdays through Thursdays. Classes start at 7 p.m.
More Info: Go to Oxygen's website.