From the photos of dear friends lost to heroin overdoses hanging on the walls to the smiles and dedication of those in recovery finding comfort in a cool and safe nightclub, The Other Side proves a success.
Please read a little story (below) about opening night and celebrate some really good choices being made by a few young adults determined to stay alive and become productive members of society. We need more stories like this. Let me know you stopped by! I enjoy your comments and input.
Alcohol-free club opens in Crystal Lake
'It probably will even save some people's lives'
|The Three Beards perform at The Other Side at the sober clubs grand opening held on April 27 . They say it is the first time they have ever been to or played in a sober bar. Band members described the atmosphere as laid back and the crowd as more respectful than those in typical bars. (Handout, Safety Stix / May 9, 2013)|
If the lack of alcohol at The Other Side nightclub in Crystal Lake isn't enough to reinforce sobriety, there's always the wall of photos of those who've died recently of overdoses.
The new club, spurred by donations and perseverance after an informal hangout version was closed by police, drew a crowd to its recent grand opening, with patrons saying they appreciate the vibe of being able to have fun without alcohol.
"I like it," said Brian Schneider, 25, of Crystal Lake. "Everybody is really chill, easygoing. Everybody is getting along, no arguments, no tension."
"The atmosphere is as good as it gets," said David DeChant, 21, of Chicago. "It's pretty much identical to any bar you go to, just no booze. … I don't think anyone is underwhelmed tonight. I'm just so impressed."
The crowd danced to music provided by DJs and a live band, sipped on water, lemonade and energy drinks. Others played video games or shot pool.
Ashley Zyks, 21, a volunteer bartender, said she overheard people say they forgot they could have fun without alcohol.
"A lot of people were talking, saying this is so cool, amazing, good experience," Zyks said.
Many of the attendees were in recovery.
"This is the first time I've been in a club not drinking or doing drugs," said Tommy Benson 32, of Mokena, who said he drank his first beer at age 8 and added drugs at the age of 12.
Benson, an aspiring mixed martial arts fighter and hip-hop artist, traveled with a friend, also in recovery, more than two hours to get to the club.
"I don't want to drink anymore. I'm gonna kill someone … or myself. Drugs and alcohol don't help me accomplish anything."
Founder Chris Reed, 22, started the concept by opening the back of an office he used for his construction business as a safe place he and his friends could hang out. They hosted karaoke nights and bands, but as word spread, police took notice.
In October, the city shut it all down and Reed had to raise money and meet city code requirements to reopen. He said he's invested more than $30,000 in the project, much of it donated by family and friends.
Whether the place can stay open was on the minds of many patrons. Reed said he hopes to gain more financial support from the community and sponsors and will charge a cover on nights there are bands and other live events.
Crystal Lake Police Commander of Patrol Dan Dziewior visited the club during the grand opening, accompanied by a city building inspector and the fire chief.
"There were no observed violations," Dziewior said, but added the city will continue to monitor the club, just as they do any business. It's licensed for 189 patrons and he said his only concerns were capacity and parking issues.
"They just have to be good neighbors, and in talking to them, they have every intention to do that," he said.
Dziewior said he supports the concept behind the club.
"I think it's a good idea," he said. "It helps people (in recovery) still satisfy the social need without having to go through temptation in a bar."
For Reed and his friends, the official opening of The Other Side is "emotionally overwhelming." Reed, who said he'd overdosed three times by the age of 19, believes the path he is on today with the club is part of a larger plan.
"I had very little to do with it," Reed said. "It was all kind of meant to happen. I guess, I'm blessed, I was chosen to do this. All that has happened, it was all outside of me, there was no way I could have planned this … just so many things happened that (were) bigger than me.
"This place is gonna change peoples lives," Reed said. "There is no doubt. It probably will even save some people's lives."