Renovated Lamp diner set for ‘soft’ opening in April
Two years after being hauled from a parking lot in Pittsburgh and deposited next to The Lamp Theatre in Irwin, a 68-year-old stainless-steel diner is scheduled for a “soft” opening in late April.
Rainy weather and some bitterly cold temperatures this winter slowed work.
“The weather has really dogged us,” said John Gdula, president of The Lamp Theatre board of directors.
The nonprofit board, which operates the theater, is shooting for a weekend in early to mid-May for an official opening, Gdula said. The opening of the diner — and surrounding courtyard — would be in conjunction with a performance at the theater, he said.
Since the diner was moved to a concrete pad next to The Lamp in April 2017, it has undergone extensive renovations. An opening was cut into the theater building, with a breezeway now connecting the two structures.
The roof was covered this winter to stop leaks caused by holes drilled in the ceiling while the diner sat at Station Square on Pittsburgh’s South Shore.
Formerly part of Ritter’s Diner, located at the border of Pittsburgh’s Shadyside and Bloomfield sections, the stainless-steel structure was gutted. It is being remodeled to serve as an area where patrons can enjoy drinks and snacks around high-top tables. The diner, with seating for about 40, will feature a wet bar. All kitchen equipment has been removed and will not be replaced, Gdula said.
Lamp officials are considering allowing customers to order food from local restaurants and have it delivered to the diner and courtyard. That would benefit businesses and answer “How do we all win with this project,” Gdula said.
Once work started, officials discovered some curved pieces of stainless steel covering the diner are too damaged for reuse.
The owner of a similar diner in State College was unwilling to sell parts piecemeal, said John Qualley of Penn Township, who was involved with Irwin Corp. official Mike Pochan in acquiring the Irwin diner from Forest City Enterprises.
Having the pieces custom-made to fit the diner would be expensive, Qualley said.
Gdula said already the cost of connecting the diner to the theater building, creating the breezeway, replacing the roof, remodeling the interior then furnishing it could reach close to $87,000.
The diner will be named after Casey and Cheryl Harper and family, the North Huntingdon automobile dealer whose family paid $25,000 for the naming rights. Their family pledged $70,000 to the theater in June 2017 to build the Harper Family Courtyard and Diner Experience. Harper had previously donated $30,000 to The Lamp.
“The diner/courtyard experience and the diner experience will help attract more people” to the theater and downtown Irwin, Gdula said. “The focus is to make it a destination place.”
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, [email protected] or via Twitter .