A few years back, I had come across a story about a bar in downtown Grand Rapids named Graces. You may think that the only unusual thing about this story would be the bar’s name, but there is a good reason for that, it was a religious-themed bar. Unfortunately the original story is no longer available through the Grand Rapids Press (RobKirkbride . “Would-be bar owners plan to pour out the spirit of religion.” The Grand Rapids Press. December 10, 2002), but some remnants can still be found around the web here and here.
According to the story, former reverend, Peter Winkle teamed up with Renee Visser, a downtown business owner, to form Graces. They wanted an alternative venue for getting the message out…meaning promoting Christianity to its patrons. The bar staff were actually clergymen as well. But Winkle and Visser were not planning on forcefully pushing religion on the patrons as evidenced by this quote: “There won’t be Bibles on the tables and the clergy won’t be wearing robes or collars, but I do envision loud music and people having fun.”
Now since this bar is no longer around and I have never seen it, I let my imagination run wild with what I think the bar was like. The possibilities are great – maybe it was based on the Old Testament exclusively, with giant murals on the walls of all the cool stories, and they would serve manna to patrons. Perhaps the bar was more focused on Jesus (most likely). If that was the case then they would have a wide selection of breads and fish dishes to chose from, and overheard frequently would be “We need to split the bread and fish, we got more customers coming in.” The tables would seat 13, all drinks were served out of goblets, and unconsecrated host wafers were offered as a snack at each table.
Another interesting aspect of this story is that through some sort of loophole Graces was able to get their liquor license for free from the City of Grand Rapids. Once again this story is no longer available but I do recall reading about the unusual way Graces obtained the license (one of the links references it as well). From what I could tell, obtaining liquor licenses can be quite the arduous task, and costly. It is amazing that Graces got one for free. It may be a different story now because of all the restaurants shutting their doors, so there may be an influx of available licenses.
What I want more information about this place. I want to know what a religious-themed bar like Graces is like. Has anyone ever visited this establishment? Does anyone have links or copies of the original news story? What about more information on the unique way they obtained their liquor license? Any information you have would be greatly appreciated. Oh and the best part is I know there are some of you out there reading this blog, so be sure to read, comment and offer suggestions. Thanks.