Levi’s closes, prepares to move across town

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 6, 2000

The Oakridge Band plays for a packed house Saturday night at Levi’s. The smoke- and alcohol-free gathering place is closing its Clay Street location and moving to Manor Drive, where it will reopen in two weeks. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

The regulars at Levi’s threw one last shindig Saturday for the family-friendly watering hole before packing up and moving to a new location.

At first glance, the place looks like a garden-variety dance hall, with slow turning paddle fans and a band churning out country tunes. But a closer look reveals the difference: no swirling clouds of cigarette smoke, and if you ask for a light, it means cream in your coffee.

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The 2-year-old project of Restoration Church boasts of providing a smoke- and alcohol-free social atmosphere that both teens and adults can enjoy.

But Levi’s current building, on Clay Street adjacent to the Vicksburg National Military Park, is in the way of the park’s expansion plans, so the church decided to take the show on the road, said the Rev. Charlie Caldwell.

The church’s, and Levi’s, new home in the Hayes Marketing building on Manor Drive won’t be ready next weekend, but the show should be on the weekend after, Caldwell said.

Friday night is teen night, where the teen-agers come out to a coffee-bar atmosphere, play games and socialize, he said. But Saturday night hosts an older crowd, a crowd that has no love for the bar scene but loves friends and good music.

“Before this, there was no place to go without a whole bunch of drinking and smoking going on,” said Mary Cunningham, a Levi’s regular. “I like to come to a good, clean place.”

Her husband, Dan Cunningham, plays in one of the regular bands, South Wind, and said he wouldn’t feel right about playing in a smoke-filled bar or club.

“I quit drinking 30 years ago, and I ain’t left nothing in a bar that I want to go looking for,” Cunningham said. “There’s a lot of people here like that.”

The crowds started small, he recalled, but grew quickly as word got out. About 100 people attended Saturday’s farewell gathering.

The move will be a positive one overall, Caldwell said, because Levi’s has outgrown its original home.

Pretty much everyone agrees that they will be there for the new location’s grand opening. “If it wasn’t for a place like this, we’d be home watching television,” Maxine Barefoot said. “It just gives us old folks an out.”