When John Valentine owned the former Palate Bistro in Downtown Pittsburgh, diners often asked about nearby places to catch some post-dinner music.
“There really wasn’t anywhere to tell them to go,” he said. “Pittsburgh really needs places where visitors can go to enjoy live music.”
A new collaborative effort aims to change that problem. The Music City Downtown program is designed to transform Downtown Pittsburgh into a music mecca by incorporating genres that were previously unavailable.
The program encompasses 10 venues: August Wilson Center, Backstage Bar, Cabaret at Theater Square, Market Street Grocery, Metropolitan, Molinaro’s, Pop-Up Bar, Speakeasy, The Wine Cellar and Wolfie’s Pub.
Valentine, executive director of the Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp., said during a news conference Wednesday that a lot of research went into selecting the 10 venues. Organizers considered space design and acoustics.
“We put a lot of thought into this because we wanted to have the right venues,” Valentine said. “So, some we had to turn down. It was unfortunate, but we want to do this right.”
Organized expect to launch the program in February.
Music is so important to a city experience, said Bob Wolfinger of MW Hospitality restaurant group, which owns five places involved. He also owns Nola on the Square in Market Square, which has had live music that’s been well-received.
One of his locations, Wolfie’s Pub, plans to open in late February and will be a place to showcase student bands and groups from nearby Point Park University. Wolfinger said having Point Park in Downtown Pittsburgh made the collaboration an easy decision. The Speakeasy is an intimate spot, he said.
“We have had great success with music at Nola,” Wolfinger said. “When music starts playing at Nola, people turn their heads to listen and see what’s going on.”
The effort isn’t solely contained to Downtown. Musicians, bands and disc jockeys from around Western Pennsylvania can post information on their performances on a newly-created website by creating a profile. The site was created by Gina Vensel, owner of Easy Street Promotions, an event planning company.
She calls herself a “music enthusiast.” She thought if there was one place for everything music in Pittsburgh it would be easy for people to find out who’s playing where and when. There are already about 100 bands and disc jockeys on the site.
“This is such an exciting time for Pittsburgh,” said Vensel, a Monroeville native who lives in the North Hills. “I have such a passion to promote music Downtown. And it is not just up to musicians to promote this, all of Pittsburgh needs to join in and hear live music. Maybe come and hear a band you have never heard before, and bring your friends. We need to support our local musicians by coming to their shows and buying their merchandise and telling other people about them.”
JoAnne Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact JoAnne at 724-853-5062 or [email protected] or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.