In the six weeks since The Underground, a Christian coffeehouse, opened in a corner of a strip mall at Peach Orchard and Tobacco roads, it's developed a set of regulars, such as Jesse Elliott.
"I love it," said Mr. Elliott, 20, over the Christian music playing in the background on a recent Sunday. "There's nothing really bad about it."
When he plays a praise and worship song and looks around, most everybody is singing, he said. "They know the words and stuff, which is great."
He's part of the young adult/older teen crowd the coffeehouse wants to serve weekend nights - on first Fridays, college students with IDs get a free drink - though The Underground is open to anyone.
House rules require patrons younger than 16 be accompanied by a parent or a sibling 18 or older.
"Parents (often) hang around outside. The music is louder than they like," said Jennifer Hunter, youth pastor at Whispering Pines Baptist Church.
Adult volunteers work the snack bar and sometimes bring their children with them.
"It is awesome," said Kayla Mulkey, 14, who came with her mother, Denise Mulkey. "You can have fun without being in a bad atmosphere. You can eat and drink whatever you want and hang out with your friends."
Youth pastors in south Augusta came up with the coffeehouse idea about five years ago. "There was a need to keep kids off the streets, to give an alternative to partying," Miss Hunter said.
They looked at the Tobacco Road location in December and took a month fixing it up before its April 5 debut. "When we first came in, all the walls were white with holes," she said.
They took out some walls, made repairs and put in lights to make the room cozy.
They wanted exposed brick for interior walls - a feature they had seen in places in Atlanta - but settled for stamping walls with textured paint and a sponge mop to get "the look" of brick.
Organizers expected The Underground's patrons would come mainly from south Augusta, but they are coming from west and North Augusta as well. Opening night, about 350 people came though.
Bands that play on Fridays and Saturdays help spread the word. Attendance now averages 50 to 100, with new faces every night among the regulars shooting pool or talking on the couch.
WHAT: The Underground
WHERE:2215 Tobacco Road
HOURS: 7 p.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays and 7:30-11 p.m. Sundays
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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