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Piano bar gets a new lease on life as a church

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Two years ago it was a piano bar, but today the only spirits being served up at 2410 Mishawaka Avenue are helpings of the Holy Spirit.

River Park Grace is a non-denominational community of faith, hope and love that is moving into the River Park neighborhood on South Bend’s southeast side.

The church is renovating an old saloon, Bryan’s Piano Barr, and turning it into a community center and place of worship.

The bar was foreclosed on about two years ago, and the bank listed the property at $500,000 with a liquor license.

No one has expressed interest in the building since, and over the months the price tag dropped to $100,000.

Not long ago, River Park Grace offered the bank a little less than $70,000 for the property and just like that, they fledgling church had a new home.

The fact that the building used to be a bar was not a deterrent to the faith-based organization. In fact, it played a part in why that site was chosen to begin with. “[We are] taking a place where maybe people drowned their sorrows with alcohol, and instead injecting them with hope and the love of Christ and the love we have for each other,” said Ashley Swanson, lead pastor of River Park Grace.

The new church still has a lot of work ahead of it, before regular Sunday services can begin.

The worship space is in pretty good shape, and renovation of an office for Swanson is already underway.

But the entire bar area, including a kitchen full of ovens and deep fryers, still need to be pulled out, sold off, and redone to accommodate plans for the community center.

While worship will be held upstairs in a former banquette area, the downstairs former bar will be home to a coffee house.

River Park Grace wants to provide the community more than just a place to come and learn about God and grown in faith on Sundays.

They want to give people access to services every day of the week. “We don’t think there needs to be another church,” said Swanson. “We just think there needs to be different churches, and so this is our little way of being somewhat different.”

By owning the building outright, River Park Grace is way ahead of where they thought they would be financially, but still way behind where they need to be to open the doors to this new community meeting place.

They plan to hold a Spaghetti Dinner on Friday, February 10 at a cost of $10 per person or $25 per family, with all proceeds going to the remodeling of the coffee shop.

Their next scheduled gathering for worship is on February 19, at 6:30 p.m. and hope to begin holding regular Sunday services sometime in March.

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