"It was safe then," she says.
Now 26 and living in Marietta, Craney says she comes to Atlanta nightclubs only a few times a year. She went to Compound several months back, but found it "expensive and too crowded."
But on a recent Friday night, she drove halfway across the northern suburbs to visit Paradise City in Alpharetta, one of several OTP nightclubs that have sprung up over the past year or so. Craney had a couple of drinks at the bar, danced with friends to oldies performed by an aging cover band and left before midnight. But she told CL she'll probably come back.
And that about sums up the challenge facing Atlanta's nightlife scene. People living in far-flung quarters of the metro area need to be persuaded to brave long treks, pricey cover charges and intown traffic jams to patronize urban nightclubs when there now are home-grown alternatives.
Here's a look at a few OTP clubs competing with the ATL for customers:
It's a surreal experience to watch several hundred white folk line-dancing to a hip-hop song. But that's just what you're likely to see if you arrive at this Duluth hot spot after midnight, when they stop playing country tunes and get crunk.
Occupying a cavernous space abandoned by a big-box retailer, Wild Bill's claims to be the largest country-music concert hall in the U.S. We'll give 'em the benefit of a doubt, but they certainly have what must be the largest dancefloor in the state, with a large concert stage to accommodate the house band and touring acts.
The crowd is visibly suburban, with ages that run 18 and up, up, up. Ladies' night on Wednesday is reputed to be the big night.
2075 Market St., Duluth, next to Gwinnett Place Mall. 678-473-1000. www.wildbillsatlanta.com.
Something of a small-scale Dave & Buster's, PC houses a full-service restaurant, a kiddie's play area, poker bar and a 300-seat live-music club.
Located in the corner of a strip shopping center, it boasts an odd mix of lodge decor left over from a previous tenant, an enchanted forest motif and rock-star imagery - a mural of Janis Joplin, Johnny Rotten and Keith Richards adorns a wall over a collection of stuffed raccoons and foxes.
Entertainment ranges from a house band that exhumes refugees from the old Rupert's Orchestra to, a couple months back, a sold-out, two-night stand by Shawn Mullins.
11105 State Bridge Road, Alpharetta. 678-990-8022.
Remember the old slogan "18 to party, 21 to drink?" Atlanta don't allow that anymore, but 18-and-up nightlife is still going strong in the 'burbs. And nowhere is it more hoppin' than at Mama's, a former country-music club deep in the wilds of southwest DeKalb.
While you're waiting to get patted down at the door, feel free to read the prominent signs posted everywhere: "No baggy pants, no pocket knives, no firearms, etc." The sub-21 set pays a $20 cover, but the party goes till 4 a.m.
Inside the expansive, shop-worn building, it's a predictably young but racially diverse crowd milling about, including several guys sporting the "young white thug" look. Plenty of people are on the large dancefloor, but few are actually dancing to the generic R&B dance mix provided by 95.5 the Beat.
Lauren, 21 and from Norcross, tells CL she drove here instead of going to Atlanta because she feels safer. Besides, she says, the Ying Yang Twins showed up at Mama's a few weeks ago.
3952 Covington Highway, Decatur, just inside I-285. 404-288-6262.
Tucked into the upscale Park Place shopping center across from Perimeter Mall, the Blue Olive has been around for a year-and-a-half, but really took off last fall when it went after the beautiful-people crowd.
Now it's got one of the area's hottest martini nights on Tuesday - an event that brings in a diverse late-night crowd - and does solid business the rest of week with a dancefloor downstairs and chill-out VIP room upstairs. The walls are adorned with locally produced artwork that changes every few weeks.
Wednesdays feature live acoustic music and Thursday is Latin night, but the Olive strives every night to be "sexy, sleek and cool," in the words of partner Josh Espinoza.
4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road. 770-399-5990.
Housed in the former Taj Mahal strip club, this Cobb County pleasure dome is all glitz inside and out, with enough neon and flashing lights to complement the most garish of bling-bling.
Boasting a fenced-in patio and pool area, spotlit dance stages and several bars, the two-level Vegas Nights draws an upscale African-American crowd of an impressive age range who come here to spend freely and shake their booties to a blend of old-school rap, sultry R&B and hip-hop.
But this is not a place for bar-hoppers; situated a mile or so north of Windy Hill Road across from a Wal-Mart, Vegas Nights, like its namesake, is an oasis in a wasteland. Its remote location virtually ensures that, once you've paid your $10 cover (or $20 for high-rollers with velvet-rope allergy), you're pretty much in for the night.
1830 Cobb Parkway, Marietta. 770-612-9112.
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