Aloha couple steps up with dance club for older adults

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Both Roberta and her husband Lynn McKinney hope Retro Rhythm will provide an alternative in Beaverton for the clubs in downtown Portland.Roberta McKinney is well aware how many folks, once they pass age 35 or so, feel they can’t or shouldn’t go out at night and enjoy themselves now and again.

While the 62-year-old understands the responsibilities and changing priorities of encroaching middle age, she firmly believes in the restorative powers of socialization, music and dance.

“There comes a point where you can’t stare at your computer screens anymore,” she admits.

With Retro Rhythm, a new club in the Cedar Hills Shopping Center, McKinney and her husband, Lynn, are sharing their belief that lively nightlife is not just for 20-somethings in downtown Portland. The couple opened the spacious business in late September in the subterranean space formerly occupied by St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church.

“We wanted to stay on the Westside,” Roberta says of the couple’s yearlong search for the right spot. “We think people are tired of going downtown (to Portland). We wanted to make it easy for people to get out and enjoy a date night, and have a good time like they used to.”

Currently open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., Retro Rhythm focuses on, but is not limited to, classic rhythm and blues-oriented dance music via disc jockeys and a 1,000-song playlist.

Live music is also part of the concept. The club will ring in 2013 with Lisa Mann and Her Really Good Band performing on New Year’s Eve.

The couple has taken pains to make the 7,000-square-foot space as comfortable, atmospheric and fun-inducing as possible. Coming down the stairs from the parking lot, a hallway lined with framed classic album covers from the 1960s and 1970s leads to a softly-lit area with plenty of wooden tables and chairs.

The bar, which will soon expand from beer and wine to include liquor drinks, is in an alcove a few strides away from the 1,250-square-foot wooden dance floor, which beckons with rotating colored lights and a disc-jockey booth.

“One of the things we wanted was a big dance floor,” Roberta says, surveying the heart of the club on a recent Thursday afternoon. “We got one.”

Stepping it up

Retro Rhythm is the first business venture for the couple. Lynn, who hails from Texas, is a licensed private investigator and former journalist. Roberta is a Los Angeles native who’s worked for years as a wine steward and saleswoman. The McKinneys started thinking outside their career boxes after Roberta lost her job at the Haggen store in Tualatin a few years ago.

“It started as a joke,” Roberta confesses. “I said to Lynn, ‘If I can’t get hired somewhere, we might as well open a club.’ The more we explored it, and did the demographic research, it began to look more and more viable.”

What they found was growing numbers of aging, yet lively singles.

“The fastest-growing demographic in America is single people over 50,” Roberta says. “We knew they would be the core of our demographic. We’re not trying to exclude anyone. The younger ones have a blast here. It’s just that there are three or four dozen of clubs (in the area) for that group, and nothing for us.”

The McKinneys’ 21-year-old son Ben, who was born with autism, also informs their vision for the club.

“Something we’re doing that’s a little unusual is monthly dances for developmentally disabled young adults,” Lynn says. “There are limited opportunities for them to meet and have fun. We had a dance with them, and they have the best time. It may be one of our regular things on Sundays.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Lynn and Roberta McKinney have started Retro Rhythm, an evening spot for the over-40 crowd in Cedar Hills.

Keeping the faith

Lynn and Roberta say they’re still tweaking different aspects of the fun emporium in response to customers’ desires. With the exception of live music nights, they eliminated the club’s cover charge earlier this month, and the wheels are in motion for a full liquor license and complete food menu.

“We started out as a very stripped down business model to get the doors open,” Lynn says. “But if customers want food and liquor, we’re going to give it to them.”

They credit Retro Rhythm’s bartender Eddie Blake with helping them connect with a wider and younger audience.

“He’s our social media consultant,” Lynn says. “He’s done an amazingly great job and helped raise our visibility.”

As they find their footing as modern pioneers in Westside nightlife, the couple sees advantages in the club’s former role as a church.

“We liked that idea,” Roberta says, “that the place was already blessed.”

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