- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2015

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) - Steve Spagnolo missed the block parties of his old stomping grounds in Pennsylvania when he moved to Kempsville 15 years ago.

“We’ve got to get this neighborhood jumping a bit,” he told his wife, Suzee.

She went out of town for a weekend. He built a bar in the garage.

Spagnolo, a 45-year-old high school math teacher, covered the bar with old pictures and Plexiglas, like he used to do in college with wood crate furniture, he said. But then he changed his mind and instead glued bottle caps to the bar top. On a roll, he covered the back of a bar stool with them, too.

Spagnolo further tricked out his man cave with a surround-sound stereo system, a couch and a dartboard. He filled the shelves with beer glasses he found at thrift stores. He mounted a bottle opener marked “church key” on a retractable string, which doubles as his wife’s laundry line.

A popcorn machine gets moved in front of the dryer when neighbors gather, which occurs almost weekly. The Spagnolos’ garage has become the social crux of the court.

Visitors play cornhole and yard games while Spagnolo mans the grill in the driveway. He keeps the garage refrigerator stocked with beer, soda and water.

“They’re such good neighbors,” said Frank Latham, relaxing there in a lawn chair on a recent Saturday evening. “You just feel right at home.”

Bottlecaps go in a bucket on the bar. Spagnolo has hundreds of them, sorted by color or style in bags and boxes on a shelf, waiting for the next project.

The ceiling, he said, looking up.

His wife smiled and glanced around at the friendly faces relaxing and enjoying the space.

“I can’t pull my car in here,” she said, “but it’s worth it.”

___

Information from: The Virginian-Pilot, https://pilotonline.com

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