Steve Trent started a dance club so he would have a place to dance.
Now he’s too busy running a dance club to dance.
“Everybody loves the place, everybody does everything they can to be there,” said Trent, owner of Dancing in Paradise in the South City shopping strip on South Hydraulic.
“It’s clean, there’s no rowdies, there’s no drunks. We could be a family establishment, but I hate to let kids in, because there is alcohol on the premises.”
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Trent grew up in western Kansas and was a heavy-equipment operator for about 25 years, first in his father’s business and then on his own. He sold that in the early 2000s.
Trent said he has loved to dance since he was a teenager.
“I had a cousin who was in a country band in Dodge City,” he said. “His wife started dragging me around to every bar in western Kansas when I was 16.”
After moving to Wichita seven years ago, he danced at the Moose Club on West Central every weekend. When it closed, the property’s landlord asked some of the regulars whether they wanted to stage a New Year’s Eve party there.
“I said, ‘Sure, I can do it,’ ” Trent said. “We put 180 people in that building in three weeks with a breakfast and a DJ.”
From there it was just a short leap to opening his own dance club on property the same landlord owned on South Hydraulic. It took him two months to put in the 52-by-32-foot dance floor, rebuild the stage, paint the walls and otherwise renovate the former bingo hall.
“Oh, my, it was filthy,” he said. “It took $1,200 just to clean the carpets around the dance floor. It looked like they had food fights in there.”
It doesn’t anymore, with Trent giving it an island-themed decor to match its name.
“I have always worn Hawaiian shirts for probably 30 years,” he said. “When it opened, I wanted it to be paradise.”
Trent books live bands such as The Boomers, The Benders, Matt Engles Band and The Funtones on Saturday nights; this Saturday will be Crosstown Traffic’s first time at the club.
The cover is $10, and patrons may bring their own alcoholic beverages because zoning regulations prevent Trent from getting a liquor license. He sells soda, mixers, coffee, water, tea and popcorn.
On Fridays, disc jockeys spin records, and on Sundays, the Honky Tonk Time Band has a regular gig. The charge those nights is $5.
About every two months, Trent brings in food for a themed party. The next one is the club’s second “Prom Night” on May 20. About 100 people showed up last year.
Trent may get to dance only a little these days, but the club is one where the dance floor stays full pretty much all night long. Regulars range from beginners to a national two-step champion.
“We’re a dance place, not a listening place,” Trent said. “That’s what I always tell people.”