`Heaven's Door' Offers Alternative Nightspot

Christian club promotes fellowship, good times, and a change from the bar scene

A NEW night club-restaurant has sprung up in Georgetown, the party hot spot here, where the lure for the last several years has been an endless bar scene. But the tables are turned at this new nightspot, called Heaven's Door.

It is a wholesome alternative to the bar scene, one whose attraction is good food, no booze, and no drugs in an atmosphere that emphasizes Christian fellowship, gospel singing, and contemporary Christian music.

Once a week, on Monday nights, Heaven's Door takes over Dylan's Cafe at 3251 Prospect St. N.W. in Georgetown. The unique swap gives an impromptu group of Christian families, singles, and young people a place to gather for "The Good Shepherd's Special" menu before the singing begins.

The menu includes Elijah's soup du jour; Ruth's gleanings from the garden - a house salad; Matthew's chicken and rice; Luke's tortellini; and II Corinthians' cheesecake, among the "heavenly deserts from the Apostle Paul."

Heaven's Door is the concept of Pastor Richard Shannon, of Fairfax Va., whose Grace of His Presence church there is the outgrowth of a Biblical counseling ministry.

Speaking of this ministering experience, Mr. Shannon says, "I spent five years as a teacher/therapist right here in D.C., involved with some profoundly disturbed adolescents."

During that time, he says, he realized that the needs of the community went beyond what could be met by the outreach efforts of his church alone - or even a group of churches. He was inspired to open the nightclub not only to promote fellowship and fun among Christians, but also to augment church efforts to reach the community.

First, he asked one of his parishioners, Greg Phillips, to find a place in Georgetown to house his dream: "to put together kind of a super, metrowide, Christian restaurant/coffeehouse...."

One of Shannon's objectives was to provide a forum for keeping people "apprised of special needs in the city."

Mr. Phillips approached Marwan and Maan Daou, the owners of Dylan's, who also happen to be brothers, about the idea of opening Heaven's Door on Monday nights when the restaurant is normally closed. Phillips recalls their receptivity, partly because the wholesome group would upgrade the image of their club.

"Some people - especially families - try to stay away from here because of the rumors and stories about D.C. and Georgetown, and drunk people, and problems," says Marwan Daou.

Shannon immediately saw a need to revamp Dylan's decor on Monday nights. He asked the owners to put away the ashtrays, beer signs, and the revealing poster of Marilyn Monroe.

They also edited the menu for Heaven's Door's clientele. Because the group includes some Messianic Jews, ham and pork dishes were left off, as well as shellfish. The only beverages are teas, coffees, sodas, and juices.

The restaurant, set in the second floor of a red brick complex, has white ceilings, track lighting, and big glass windows looking down on the street.

Close to the entrance is a small podium on which rests a hand-made wooden sign for Heaven's Door.

"We have over a dozen churches actively involved in supporting this, supplying musical talent, supplying volunteers," says Shannon. "And our goal is to get 100 churches participating and then to get our facility in place..." We really want this to be a joint coalition effort of many churches, city and suburban."

Heaven's Door opened on July 13 after leaflets and brochures were distributed among Washington-area churches and neighborhoods.

Word has spread since its slow start. Crowds now begin gathering early in the evening and average about 80 a night.

The music soars with numbers like "When the Lord Delivered Me," "Holy, Holy, Holy," and "You Are Exalted, Lord." Some of the musicians mingle their songs with testimonies of their faith. A mother of five talks about her deliverance from drugs.

Eva Lehmann, a visitor to the club who lives in the city, says, "It was wonderful - it provides fellowship for the believers."

Ruth Blythe of Chevy Chase says, "It was lovely. I enjoyed it."

And an American University student who preferred not to give her name says, "In the '70s, Jesus People did it, [provided] a place for people to come together other than in the church. People get together with each other and develop Christian bonds ... the love of the Lord is present in all of it." She said she was going to bring some of her fellow students to Heaven's Door.

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