Music: Jesus does rock!
Las Vegas Mercury, Nov. 14, 2002
By Brock Radke
The small but densely packed shopping center on North Rainbow Boulevard just south of Washington Avenue looks like any other strip mall in town. There’s a TCBY, a Subway and a hair salon. There are a couple of video poker machine-laden bars, and an adult boutique called Priscilla’s, all standard sinful fare for a Las Vegas street corner. But one righteous business stands out.
There is no beam of white light extending from the heavens to shine down on the Holy Grounds Coffee Lounge, but there is a halo glowing over the shop’s logo.
“It’s kind of funny that they are right next to us,” says Patricia Torgersen, manager of the lingerie, sex toy and occasional porn tape-selling Priscilla’s. “They say they pray for everyone in this center every day. But I think they just pray for everyone.”
If you wanted to open the only Christian coffee shop in Las Vegas, you might look for a site devoid of sex, drugs and gambling, if such a place exists. But native sons Sean O’Hair and Ruben G. Moya, co-owners and operators of Holy Grounds, didn’t care about the businesses around them. While they both harbor strong Christian beliefs, they’re not looking to force anything down their customers’ throats other than a latté. (The back of the menu states their mission best, if a little over-sweetened: “providing a home away from home and a community gathering place for people of all places and backgrounds in life who can step through our doors to find great coffee, good conversation and a healthy dose of love served with a double shot of genuine fellowship.”)
Childhood friends and Western High graduates O’Hair and Moya opened Holy Grounds last December and had a packed-house grand opening celebration on New Year’s Eve. Business has been growing steadily ever since, and there’s no one checking denominations at the door.
“We’re here to expose the gospel, not to impose it,” O’Hair says. “We give credit to God for this idea. We’re Christian-owned and run, but the goal is really just to have a place with a positive environment. When I was a student there was no place to go to just hang out and study or read that didn’t have smoke in every corner or a band thrashing away every night.”
Since its inception, Holy Grounds has offered something else besides coffee and Christ. On Friday and Saturday nights, the lounge becomes a local music venue for Christian acts of all persuasions. And surprisingly enough, there are Christian acts of all persuasions in Las Vegas. This weekend will feature Jawbone, billed as authentic rock ‘n’ roll with a message, and original artist Wayne Hermans. Coming up later in the month is Christian R&B singer Ayiesha, comedic cover songs by Glenda Lee and worshipping rappers the Karrs.
“I didn’t realize it at first either, but the statistics for Christian music are staggering,” O’Hair says. “The sales are right up there with country music. And the cool thing about this is we can have so many different genres in one place. We’ve had alternative, gospel, R&B, contemporary worship, rap, even reggae.”
Local singer/songwriter Hef has become a favorite after bringing in his spiritual alt.rock band Hef’s Hill to the lounge a couple of times. Chick-rock trio Twitch is also one of the groups O’Hair is considering asking back to celebrate Holy Grounds’ anniversary New Year’s event.
Developing and maintaining a core audience is a task that has forever plagued local venues, especially those accommodating all-ages shows. The recently defunct Tremorz and The Castle testify to how difficult consistency can be to achieve. With a built-in Christian audience, O’Hair and friends don’t seem to have to worry about these dilemmas.
“This is the only place a lot of these musicians are getting a chance to play, other than their own churches,” he says. “And more and more acts are popping up, wanting a chance to be here. It’s really growing.”
And the neighbors don’t seem to mind, either.
“Only in Las Vegas would these types of businesses co-exist, because people here are open-minded,” says Torgersen at Priscilla’s. “I go over there and get coffee every day. One day I was too busy and a guy over there said he’d bring something to me, and I was wondering what he’d think when he came in here. But I guess Christians have sex, too.”