With jazz music playing, the burlesque dancer bursts through the velvet curtains at The Storyville Lounge and promenades around the room. Red lights flicker. She smiles coyly and begins removing articles of clothing. People sip their Sazerac cocktails and watch in wide-eyed wonder.
This isn’t New Orleans; it’s Allentown.
Revelers whisper a password and enter through a Murphy Door bookcase. The 1,200-square-foot room features a bar and an assortment of turn-of-the-century furniture and décor curated by co-owners Jesse Mader and Amanda Rok-Mader during their adventures in the French Quarter.
Named after NOLA’s infamous Victorian-era red-light district, The Storyville Lounge is also available for private bookings. Tarot card readings are offered on Sundays if you want to talk with spirits instead of imbibing them.
“We want to make it an inclusive experience,” Jesse Mader says. “We want to embrace and celebrate the good things that came out of Storyville. Everything has a touch of history.”
The Velvet Hearts!, a troupe founded in 2008 that’s made up of queer burlesque, drag and sideshow performers, holds classic burlesque and variety shows at the site. The next event is on Friday, July 29, with a beach party theme, complete with Tiki cocktails.
Soon, the booze flowing at the bar will be made in-house. In addition to the Victorian retail shop, the Maders own Inspired by Spirits Distilling Co. — the umbrella name for their various businesses — with their friends and business partners Mike and Raeanne Miles. The distillery is attached to the store at 753 E. Warrington Ave.
By the end of the summer, Mike Miles will start to make libations — including gin, vodka, rum, bourbon and brandy — with an ornate, 100-gallon copper still that he constructed. Smaller versions — which double as art pieces — are available for purchase. Customers will be able to sample the products, buy bottles and take distilling classes.
Eventually, the Hilltop natives will open satellite liquor stores to unleash their spirits throughout Pittsburgh … and the great beyond.