Late-night dance migration 

Orlando City Council's rave ban notwithstanding, the late-night dance scene is alive and well, particularly in unincorporated Orange County.;;Anyone tuned into the local media knows the tale of The Basement, the Longwood club that failed to fill the niche carved in downtown Orlando by The Club at Firestone. A combination of media attention, political rhetoric and police attention steered the crowd elsewhere. ;;But beyond any city's limits, the proprietors of the Cyberzone, on Lee Road, west of State Route 17-92, are attracting large crowds, despite the lack of a liquor license. "Bring your own bottle and drink ‘til 6 a.m.," beckons the club's information line.;;Jason Donovan, director of the Zen Festival, says insiders regard the Cyberzone as a "test case" demonstrating whether after-hours action would be allowed in any form anywhere in the county. Should the club need help in a legal fight, it can turn to legal adviser Mark NeJame, a defense attorney and businessman involved in downtown clubs. During a meeting of the Rave Review Task Force appointed by Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood, NeJame and Police Lt. Joe Robinson, Hood's rave expert, seemed near fisticuffs while arguing over NeJame's right to speak during a committee meeting.;;On Sept. 8, Orlando City Council passed an ordinance requiring all nightclubs in the city to close by 3 a.m. While affecting all clubs that stayed open late, the ordinance effectively killed the late-night dance scene built by The Club at Firestone.;;In its first weekend as the go-to place, the Cyberzone scored high, managing to avoid the attention of the Orange County Sheriff's Department, according to Deputy Miguel Pagan. "Once we start getting complaints, it's different," Pagan says.;;Barring such a call to action, deputies are limited to the enforcement of existing county ordinances. In unincorporated Orange County, liquor sales must end at 2 a.m. But there is no designated closing time, much less an ordinance designed to discourage late-night parties at BYOB clubs. "If there's not an ordinance, what are we going to enforce?" Pagan says.;;Perhaps not for long. County Chairman Linda Chapin assigned two staff members to attend the city's meetings on the rave issue. "The chairman has expressed some concern as it was a concern of the mayor," assistant county attorney John Gehrig says. Cyberzone, the only "bottle club" open in the county, operates under a "special exception" to zoning regulations, according to assistant county attorney Joel Prinsell.;;"These raves have not been a problem in the county. If there was a problem, I'm sure we'd deal with it," Prinsell says.;;While Cyberzone, formerly known as Radicals, and before that Infinity, has been able to operate in unincorporated Orange County, promoters of special events featuring electronica performers say they are encountering increasing difficulty in finding venues, due to anti-rave political sentiments. ;;To bring the Zen Festival to Central Florida in 1998, Donovan says he would probably lease undeveloped land from the Seminoles. A return to Polk County is highly unlikely, and Donovan lacks other options. "If it goes past the indian reservation, I don't know what to do," he says.;;On Sept. 13, Corey James produced a show featuring electronica acts at the The Liquid Cellar near the University of Central Florida. But James says he has begun putting together a members-only club, due to problems convincing building owners to do business. This, while major corporations have begun to embrace the rave culture, bringing with them legitimacy, as well as big dollars. "You see Sony, you see Joe Camel, you see big radio stations, you see big corporations," James says. "You've got to deal with it.";;Meanwhile, Jon Marsa, part owner of The Club at Firestone, continues to plot the return of the late-night scene to downtown. His attorney has asked the Florida Department of Alcohol, Beverage and Tobacco to rule on the legality of Orlando's ordinance as it relates to the new state anti-rave law. But this answer could take 90 days. Also Marsa says he is weighing the filing of a lawsuit against Orlando as a result of the money he is losing due to the ban. ;;Neither tactic figures to score quick results, leaving Marsa on the sidelines watching Cyberzone draw the attention and door charges, just as electronica begins to attract corporate sponsors and mainstream media. "I would love to compete in a city where it wasn't demonized," says Marsa.

More by Lawrence Budd


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