Since its inception in late 2010, Sister Louisa’s Church of the Living Room and Ping Pong Emporium has become an Edgewood institution, gleefully spoofing church culture and, in the process, creating its own kind of congregation in the people who frequent it. If you have your ear to the ground of Atlanta food and bar culture, you probably already know that owner Grant Henry is plotting a second location in Athens. Irreverently named Sister Louisa’s Church (It’s a Glory Hole!), the spot is tentatively slated to open in August. Creative Loafing caught up with Henry to talk about his decision to spread the gospel outside Atlanta and what he has planned for his new digs.
The whole thing started with a Rolls Royce. Henry owns one, which he uses to give customers rides to the Church, and one day the spirit moved him to find out whether the car could make the drive to Athens.
“Steven [Carse, of King of Pops] wanted to go to Athens, so I said, ‘Let’s take the Rolls.’ So we loaded popsicles into the backseat and it made it all the way.”
Henry spent the day slinging pops with Carse, and in the process met lots of local fans of the Atlanta bar, Mayor Nancy Denson among them. One person after another asked about the possibility of Henry opening a Church in Athens, so he decided he might as well. Six months later, he’s settled on 254 W. Clayton Street, next door to Caledonia Lounge and a stone’s throw from the 40 Watt, a location that once housed the Mercury Lounge.
“In the meantime, I found ten church chandeliers like we have in Atlanta, and I bought ’em. A month or two ago I found a bunch of church pews out of a church in downtown Atlanta, and then I’ve been buying Peewee Hermans and all kind of juicy shit on EBay. I’ve got a carpenter building booths out of my church pews. They’ll be custom fit,” Henry says, adding that the new location will feature both a covered front patio and a rooftop ping pong patio.
The Athens location is sure to take on a life of its own over time, but Henry isn’t trying to fix what ain’t broke. He’s modeling décor, atmosphere and staffing after the original Church, down to a nun hanging from the rafters. His most seasoned bartenders have already committed to trekking to Athens on a regular basis to work shifts there, in an effort to ensure that the culture of the Atlanta Church will inform the Athens Church as well.
Of course, Henry himself is an important component in Sister Louisa’s identity. He plans to split his time between both spots and says he has designs to either rent or buy a home in Athens for him and his out-of-town staff to stay in, plus a van to cart people and equipment back and forth.
Given its proximity to two of Athens’s most active music venues, “I think Church will be the place that people go before and after concerts,” he says. “I just start Day One, and it’ll be awesome.”