READERS' PICK: On Mondays and Wednesdays throughout summer, Gotham transformed into an 18-and-under furor celebrating the kind of smelly teen spirit immortalized by Nirvana, with DJs spinning everything from country to house, techno, hip-hop and pop. The industrially decorated danceclub has suspended its weekly teen scene during the school year, but will again open its doors to the underaged during winter and spring breaks.
READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP -- TIE: Aaron's Family Billiards, 3150 E Ft. Lowell Road. There comes a time in every teenager's life when he or she must graduate from the violent video games of youth to the serious game of shooting stick. Fear not, moms and pops, your progeny are learning to play pool and strike appropriately detached poses at Aaron's. It's a pretty big space with about 25 tables, a snack bar with appropriate staples, some video games along the walls, and even a few pinball machines for those old enough to remember when Missile Command and Defender were the coolest video games in the whole world. Aaron's has moved around to the eastern pocket of the same shopping center where it's been for years, but it retains its adolescent charm and bitchen jukebox.
The Fineline, 2520 N. Oracle Road. We hear it's closed again, due to a new wave of zoning nightmares, but our best wishes to former owner Dick Ploughman, who's fought the good fight for more than a decade to give local teens a place to gather -- recently, where angst and black lipstick combined to create a bastion of gothness that was altogether cool. We wish there were more risk-takers like him...and fewer selfish curmudgeons throwing roadblocks in their way.
Safehouse, 4024 E. Speedway Blvd., has a diverse clientele of bikers, goths, ravers, hackers and skaters that goes well with its eclectic, industrial decor. Teens and adults alike will find comfortable refuge in this smoky den of subcultures and generations. The music selection, which ranges from techno trip-hop to Spice Girls pop, keeps patrons tapping their feet until 2 a.m. Colliding billiards and video game anthems provide a suitable backdrop to the various goings on. Small and larger entourages alike will fit comfortably in Safehouse's array of booths, chairs and couches. So next time you're cruising Speedway, stop by, get a cup of coffee and live (or relive) your young, carefree daze.