Chef Kevin Sousa’s latest project goes against everything he’s ever known about what makes an aesthetically pleasing restaurant.
Arlington Beverage Club in Allentown has wood-paneled walls adorned with Budweiser signs, worn linoleum floors, wonky tables and folding chairs.
Picture it: Dusty softball trophies clutter the shelves and there’s a four-lane duckpin bowling alley in the basement.
“It’s counterintuitive to all the design themes instilled in me,” says Sousa, owner of Superior Motors, a fine dining establishment in Braddock that TIME magazine named one of 2018’s Greatest Places. It’s also a design lover’s dream, filled with sleek furniture and lighting that doubles as gorgeous sculpture.
Superior Motors, though far from stuffy, is downright elegant.
Arlington Beverage Club, Sousa says, “screams ‘Go back to your roots and just be a kid from McKees Rocks!’”
Although it won’t officially open until spring, Sousa is hosting a New Year’s Eve party at the site. The event starts at 7:30 p.m., featuring classic and specialty cocktails, hand-crafted non-alcoholic beverages, a crock-pot table, live entertainment, dancing, karaoke and a champagne toast at midnight.
There’s no cover for the party and no reservations will be taken.
Sousa will be slinging drinks behind the bar all evening.
Up until Jan. 1, 2019, the space at 1226 Arlington Ave. was known as St. George Lyceum, a social club where parishioners could play pool, smoke cigarettes and drink beer. On a busy night during its heyday, it held up to 150 people.
When it closed, there were only five members left.
Sousa and Superior Motors General Manager Chris Clark discovered the building last year while scoping out the neighborhood for cool spaces. They wanted to open a bar with a vintage Pittsburgh vibe.
St. George Lyceum is a time capsule of the Steel City’s bygone days, when mills still belched black smoke.
It’s just 15 feet from Hitchhiker Brewing Co.’s Winter Pop-up Taproom on Industry Street. Sousa provides the food for that venue, which operates every Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. through the end of March.
Over the next few months, Sousa and his team will install a full kitchen in the basement at their new bar, bring the building up to code and restore at least one duckpin bowling lane.
By springtime, Arlington Beverage Company will operate seven nights a week, serving affordable drinks, bar food and weekend brunch, all with a Superior Motors twist.
Aside from reconfiguring the bar, the main floor will remain largely untouched. (Smoking privileges, however, have been discontinued.)
“The only way we will mess this up is if we do too much to it,” Sousa says. “We don’t want to rip apart what makes it so nostalgic.”