Bottlerocket Social Hall is starting off with a bang.
On May 19, alternative comedy legend Chris Gethard will break in the stand-up stage. The comedian, actor and author has appeared in “The Chris Gethard Show,” “Broad City,” “Space Force” and more. He’ll do a live recording for his “Beautiful/Anonymous” podcast starting at 7 p.m. and the act begins at 9:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets are available online.
This is not a joke: A former Kevin Sousa project is now the launchpad for laughs.
The former St. George Lyceum, which the chef rebranded as Arlington Beverage Club, will soon open as a bar and a 100-seat theater called Bottlerocket Social Hall. It will be run by the comedy troupe and RE360, an Allentown-based real estate investment company.
The space at 1226 Arlington Ave. will open for bar service on May 1 with the theater slated to make its debut on May 20.
Sousa’s plans to open a shot-and-a-beer joint with upscale pub fare fell through in December 2021, shortly after his exit from nearby Mount Oliver Bodega. In February, Bottlerocket partnered with RE360 to give the building new life.
Bottlerocket founder Chris Copen says they’re keeping the 1970s-era décor, right down to the wood paneling, antique beer signs and worn linoleum floors. When he was affiliated with Dad’s Basement, a collectibles shop and performance theater at 1521 Potomac Ave., he spent a year trying to recreate a vintage vibe in Dormont.
Now he has a real Pittsburgh time capsule. Aside from minor updates to the lighting and façade, plus the addition of an old jukebox and TV consoles that will play classic shows, the place will remain as is.
Copen and his creative team plan to host improvisational and original performances and alternative acts you might not see on the traditional comedy club circuit. The stage will be separate from the bar, so customers can stop by for a drink even if they don’t have a ticket to a show.
The nostalgic watering hole plans to partner with local eateries to provide cold sandwiches and snacks, but those details are still being hammered out.
Adam Manculich, RE360’s director of food and beverage, says the two entities also own the alleyway in between RE360’s offices and the bar, as well as a warehouse behind the building, where they plan to hold pop-up dinners and other events.
Manculich, a Hilltop native and veteran chef, says he’s excited to bring Bottlerocket Comedy’s youthful energy to the property.
One longtime member of the team is Gracie Dickinson, who joined Copen’s Point Blank Comedy at Point Park University in 2016. Named after Gracie Allen — a vaudeville star who appeared with her husband/comic foil George Burns on radio, television and the stage — Dickinson is a fan of humorists from the ‘40s all the way up through today.
Dickinson was there at the start of Dad’s Basement, writing skits and designing the logo. When Copen parted ways with partners Jared and Jake Berlin, she joined him.
“I’m looking forward to building a community at Bottlerocket,” Dickinson says. “I want people to be able to express themselves on stage and put their work out there. Allentown is already a great community. It will be cool to be a part of that.”
The Berlins will continue to run Dad’s Basement as a first-floor retail store, where they buy and sell trading cards, autographed sports memorabilia, and other baubles. They also plan to open the downstairs venue this summer to host drag shows, improv and sketch comedy, beatboxing competitions, rap battles, indie bands, live readings and signings, and more.
For a month or so, Bottlerocket was busy presenting pop-up shows around town. Now the group is focusing on opening their new home to the public.
“We want to maintain the balance of this place being a destination that brings in outsiders and a neighborhood bar,” Copen says. “We’re lucky to have a partner that totally gets the vision, backs it and wants to make it a reality.”