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Archive for Sunday, June 14, 2009

BK Lounge: Senior group turns local Burger King in a weekly honky-tonk joint

Couples dance around the Burger King restaurant at 1107 W. Sixth St., which is better-known as the “BK Lounge” on Monday nights. The event draws 30 to 45 people a week, including a few musicians who play dance numbers.

Couples dance around the Burger King restaurant at 1107 W. Sixth St., which is better-known as the “BK Lounge” on Monday nights. The event draws 30 to 45 people a week, including a few musicians who play dance numbers.

June 14, 2009

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Dancing at the BK Lounge

Oldsters dance at the Burger King at 1106 W. 6th in Lawrence, where they get together for food and friends. Enlarge video

Marge Rocker can’t sit still any longer.

She’s been tapping her fingers on the table through several songs with one hand, sipping a frosty beverage in the other.

But “Don’t Be Cruel,” the old Elvis standard, puts her over the top.

She summons her friend, Ruth Vervynck, from across the room. It’s time to dance.

Between tables, they do a line dance until the last lyrics.

I don’t want no other love,
Baby it’s just you I’m thinking of.


It’s a scene fit for a honky-tonk.

A few feet away is a ledge with a row of paper “BK” crowns for the kids.

This is a Burger King. The Home of the Whopper is now the home of a country joint.

That beverage Rocker was sipping? It was a strawberry shake, through a straw, in a cup adorned by “SpongeBob SquarePants” characters.

Dean and Patsy Kirkman, Lawrence, are usually the first to arrive to the scene at BK Lounge, dining before the sun sets. Dance nights are 6:30 to 9 Mondays at the Burker King at 1107 W. Sixth St.

Dean and Patsy Kirkman, Lawrence, are usually the first to arrive to the scene at BK Lounge, dining before the sun sets. Dance nights are 6:30 to 9 Mondays at the Burker King at 1107 W. Sixth St.

•••

They call it the BK Lounge. For the older folks who hang out here every Monday night, at the Burger King on Sixth St., it’s country music, a little dancing, some new friends — both new and old.

“It’s usually about the same people,” says 76-year-old Vervynck, a former Douglas County treasurer, who comes regularly to meet others. “I don’t miss unless I’m out of town.”

She knows some of the people from dances she attends — those organized by the Douglas County Senior Center and others. And she’s met some new ones by coming here.

“We have fun,” she says. “That’s a good thing. When you get to my age, you should get out and enjoy life. When your time comes, you’re gonna go.”

•••

The smell of burgers wafts into the “dance hall.” Most of the tables are covered with small senior-sized coffees, which are offered at a discount.

It’s been that way for 14 months, since this tradition began with a handful of couples. Now, it draws 30 to 45 people from 6:30 to 9 on Monday evenings.

Sure, it’s an unlikely place for a music gathering. But for whatever reason, it just works.

The genesis of the BK Lounge actually was at the Burger King on 23rd Street. There was a band that played there for a while. But when Teya Lepley, a manager-in-training on 23rd, eventually moved to the Sixth Street location, she invited the band to move up there.

Now, the gathering helps drive business on Monday nights. But Lepley takes a personal interest in the patrons.

“It’s a little social group,” she says. “I love it. I think it’s the greatest thing.”

She grew up in small-town Kansas, and her dad was in a band. This feels like home.

“You won’t find this at McDonald’s or Taco Bell,” she says. “Taco John’s asked if they could steal away the band. I said, ‘No!’”

•••

Joe Patterson, 72, started coming here because his mother-in-law wanted to listen to the music. After she died, he and his wife, Shirley, kept coming.

“We enjoy the people,” he says. “It’s just friends.”

Sometimes, they dance among the tables.

“I have three left feet,” he says. “My wife gets me up once in a while.”

This night, most of those in attendance are opting to sit and listen to the band as the late-evening sunlight starts to shine through the Burger King windows.

Bill Maxwell, who plays bass, and three of his buddies usually make up the band. Tonight, one is absent, making it a three-piece ensemble that’s set up with music stands, guitars and amps in the corner of the dining area.

“We don’t really have a name,” Maxwell says during a smoke break. “Somebody said we were the BK Boys.”

They don’t get paid. They just like playing.

Gene Hopkins is a loyal patron of the BK Lounge, driving in from Lake Dabinawa to eat and dance. Lounge night runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays.

Gene Hopkins is a loyal patron of the BK Lounge, driving in from Lake Dabinawa to eat and dance. Lounge night runs from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays.

“It’s actually real nice,” Maxwell says. “The acoustics aren’t bad. It’s really easy to load and unload the equipment.”

Rocker, who at 83 still works two days a week at Del Monte, makes this one of her regular dance stops during the week.

She confidently proclaims: “This table has the most fun of all of us.”

“I just like the people,” she says. “I guess I could sit at home and do nothing.”

Comments

angel4dennis 5 years, 6 months ago

I think this is awesome. Congrats to the lady that started this. It is this kind of interesting things that keeps bringing people back. I remember playing bingo at McDonalds with my grandma many years ago. It was fun and we won free coffee! BK is definately a family atmosphere and I am glad to see it gearing towards the more mature generation.

Chris Ogle 5 years, 6 months ago

This town really changes after midnight....go home early folks.

RoeDapple 5 years, 6 months ago

I turned 61 this year...................

Somebody shoot me before this looks like fun to me...........

OldEnuf2BYurDad 5 years, 6 months ago

Good one, R.D.

I'm caught between "this is cool" and "BK has jumped the shark".

somebodynew 5 years, 6 months ago

Roe- I am not far behind you......And I agree wholeheartedly with you.

Now, that said, I am very glad to see BK doing something like this for the people that enjoy it. Good for them !!! Just don't count me among the participants.

Nick Yoho 5 years, 6 months ago

You know you'd love it. Now stop being coy...

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

oh! let 'em have fun!

besides when they leave and their blood is all full of rhythm, they can patrol the lawrence alleys and knock a few heads together!

"Dabinawa" indian word for: "old person dancing?"

great job Burger king. despite the humor, I want to say that this is great and I hope this continues.


Roe/somebodynew, if my mother lived here, she would've told me about this waaaay before the newspaper covered it. she would've joined the scene on monday nights by the second monday.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 6 months ago

I'm 63 so I am ahead of all of you. I can remember being 60. When I was at the SA Shelter, a man my age, went to the Senior Center to check it out. He came back that night and said in alarm. "there's old people in there!" Someone replied, "there's old people out here!" LOF I hope I got that right. I'm old, cut me some slack.

Leslie Swearingen 5 years, 6 months ago

You know it seems like the older I get, the younger I feel, inside, is that weird or what?

Jaylee 5 years, 6 months ago

“You won’t find this at McDonald’s or Taco Bell,” she says. “Taco John’s asked if they could steal away the band. I said, ‘No!’"

bowdedowr-DOWR-dowr........

............................................................bowdedowr-DOWR-dowr........

gsxr600 5 years, 6 months ago

Is this a joke? This must be the doings of Dane Cook!

Calliope877 5 years, 6 months ago

I think it's kinda odd...but, hey, if the old folks dig it...then I guess it's all good.

bearded_gnome 5 years, 6 months ago

hey Marioni, you ladykiller! you going down there to pick up a hottie?


not a bad idea for a place to dance. where you can dance until you get hungry then hit the BK for a double wopper with cheese and everything on it! yumm. their onion rings aren't bad at BK either.

good idea? of course, because of the dancers, there's a free-ad article in the paper and we're on here posting about them.

sustainabilitysister 5 years, 6 months ago

This is FABULOUS!!! Wish more establishments could think outside of the box. I hope the rockin' continues with the BK Boys on Monday nights!

Lee Eldridge 5 years, 6 months ago

This is just awesome. We used to refer to BK as the BK Lounge when we were kids. No idea where it started, but that's great.

redmoonrising 5 years, 6 months ago

Man, I'm 62 and for a minute there I was thinking....then I stopped.

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