Pittsburgh Flicks and Nightlife in April
Tour local social clubs with the Roaming Social Club; expect changes at AMC Waterfront
PHOTO by Ben Soltesz
Throughout western Pennsylvania, social clubs — nominally private organizations where members gather to drink and otherwise carouse — have remained a nightlife staple for well over a century. Around here, if you’re not a Moose or an Elk or a dues-paying member at a VFW or fire hall, you likely have a half-dozen relatives who are (and who will be happy to sign you into the club to watch the Bucco game over reasonably priced beer and peanuts).
For many younger ’Burghers, however, these clubs are growing increasingly remote from their daily routines. How to get locals who didn’t grow up around these establishments through the door? The answer could be the Roaming Social Club, which tours a notable hall or organization each month.
Kicking off with a January visit to the 106-year-old John Kollar Slovak Literary and Library Society on the South Side, the Roaming Social Club has begun its first year of operation with visits to some of the city’s most long-standing fraternal halls, including the Lawrenceville branch of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (founded in 1903) and the North Side landmark Teutonia Männerchor (founded in 1856).
“Every club we talk to is really excited about it,” says Ben Soltesz, who co-founded Roaming Social Club with Stephanie Brea. “They like the idea of bringing people in.” Soltesz, who is a member of several such organizations, says that clubs can lose up to 20 percent of their charter members each year to old age or relocation.
The Roaming Social Club sold annual memberships before its first event; those looking to get in for the rest of 2018 can buy a six-pack of passes for $60. If individual events don’t sell out, tickets are available on the spot for $15. Guests are encouraged to become members of the host clubs (if they qualify; while some social clubs, such as Männerchor, have eliminated heritage rules for members, others still have restrictions in place). This month’s trip, scheduled for April 21, will travel to the Bulgarian Macedonian National Educational and Cultural Center in West Homestead.
“The allure of the ethnic clubs is that these are people who were living in Pittsburgh at a time with a great sense of community,” Soltesz says. “That’s what we’re trying to do with Roaming Social Club — create a sense of community.”
The AMC Waterfront 22 multiplex, which kickstarted a sea change in the local theater scene when it opened in 1999, shuttered its in-house restaurant on the theater’s second floor this January.
Opened with the theater as the Loews Club, the restaurant served a full menu that could optionally be packaged and taken into an auditorium.
Kimberly Sanden, coordinator for corporate communications at AMC Theatres, says the change was the result of a “thorough evaluation of the service strategy and guest needs” at the theater, noting the dine-in-or-take-in structure was somewhat unique among the chain’s locations.
The theater recently expanded its concession lineup — flatbread pizzas, a giant Bavarian pretzel and more are now available alongside popcorn and nachos — and still operates a full-service bar, MacGuffins, in the former restaurant space, itself a rarity when the theater opened.