“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” — James Belasco and Ralph Stayer, Flight of the Buffalo (1994)
Every now and then, it’s human nature to fall into a rut. To go through the motions of your daily routine with no real sense of direction or inclination for improvement. To say “well, this is the way it’s always been done, so that’s how it will always be.”
But what separates those who live in the shadows of complacency from those who start revolutions and usher in waves of progress? The answer is simple, boys and girls…it’s the discovery of change and working like hell to make it happen!
No establishment has embraced the power of change more so than this month’s PCBN Connect Sponsor. A strong commitment to craft beer has always been in place, but the recent decision to go non-smoking, the discovery of historic ties in their building, a newly-renovated space, and a clear-cut vision for growth and success are what will put these guys on the map and bring you in from all corners of Pittsburgh to check them out.
Up until now, you may have known them as the Brookline Pub. But going forward, you will know them not only by their new moniker of The Pub & Pourhouse, but as the South Hills’ newest and greatest craft beer destination!
When Pub & Pourhouse owners Leo and Dana Hughes purchased the Brookline Pub in July of 2007, they knew change was an absolute necessity to the growth of their bar. Their newly-owned haunt was known as The Locker Room and was in the basement of the building, accessible only by a dimly-lit stairwell. This attracted a crowd as suspect as the Brookline area at the time. But committed to creating a gathering place for neighborhood patrons as well as a destination for beer and food lovers, Leo and Dana quickly changed the name to Brookline Pub and, in less than a year, moved the bar to its current, more welcoming setting upstairs.
“We wanted to have the biggest beer selection on Brookline Boulevard and not once has that vision wavered,” Dana stated. “We are going to keep building upon that vision as we transform into The Pub & Pourhouse and make sure our guests always have a great selection of craft beer and food.”
As I mentioned, a recent discovery was made that connects The Pub & Pourhouse to a significant segment of Pittsburgh history. The building was first introduced to the Brookline neighborhood as a storefront in the early 1890s and was home to the German Beneficial Union established in Pittsburgh in 1892. As we moved into the 1900s, the building underwent a $90,000 renovation that transformed it into a movie theatre that showed silent pictures and Vaudeville performances beginning March 28th, 1921. The Stanley Corporation, who were the largest theatre operators in America at the time, operated the theatre and ran motion pictures there until 1928 when it was purchased by Warner Brothers. Due to the recognition the Stanley name had, Warner Brothers kept the name in place until 1937. The Brookline Theatre closed shortly after the Boulevard Theatre opened just down the street at 810 Brookline Boulevard on November 10th, 1937. Warner Brothers continued to use the space as a film distribution center until 1947.
Today, a large portion of the bar operations are in the hands of Leo and Dana’s daughter, Taylor. Taylor serves as Bar Manager and brings to the forefront a solid vision of what she wants The Pub & Pourhouse to be, as well as a palate that reached levels of refinement far sooner than yours or mine.
“I remember helping my dad home-brew when I was seven,” Taylor explained. “Not that I was drinking it, but helping my dad brew brought my understanding of beer to a different level. I was able to use that knowledge as I got older and it helped me appreciate craft beer much more as I learned different flavor profiles and how they came together.”
Taylor has been part of The Pub & Pourhouse’s evolution since she was waiting tables at the age of 14. You can see her passion for making her establishment the very best with every idea and story she shares.
“To me, the most rewarding feeling I get is when someone compliments the changes we’ve made or tells me how excited they are for our renovations to be complete,” Taylor said. “Those comments make everything I do worth it.”
In addition to the new name, Taylor also spearheaded a change that instantly turned the tables for The Pub. In 2008, many bars in Pittsburgh banned smoking in compliance with Pennsylvania’s newly-passed Clean Indoor Air Act. However, that same law also lets some businesses, most notably bars, apply for an exemption as long as food accounts for 20% or less of overall sales and no one under 18 is permitted inside. The Brookline Pub received that exemption and allowed smoking to its patrons. But, on March 15th, 2015 the decision to go non-smoking finally went into effect at The Pub.
“I didn’t want to do away with smoking at first,” Leo said. “But I immediately saw the change it brought to our business. We saw fresh faces who hadn’t been in for a long time. It was a great decision for us and I’m glad we did it.”
“All of our food is fresh,” Taylor said. “Nothing is frozen and nothing is bagged.”
The new-look, new-feel Pub & Pourhouse is going to be the place to be in the South Hills for all craft beer enthusiasts. In fact, their blueprint for special events is one that will have you traveling from all corners of Pittsburgh to experience. Buzz Worthy Trivia currently hosts trivia events every Tuesday, and live music acts have been jamming out at The Pub as well. Look for other fun events coming your way in the near future, including local beer samplings, Sunday morning yoga with brunch and a bloody mary bar, and much more.
As Leo and Taylor explained, The Pub’s new direction parallels the overall facelift Brookline Boulevard has experienced over the last couple years.
“The Brookline Business District is growing and changing,” Leo said. “A lot of small businesses are looking at Brookline Boulevard as a great place to set up shop. It’s great we were able to be one of those foundation businesses that helped prove the success that can be had here.”
“Brookline has a very ‘young professional’ vibe to it,” Taylor added. “There are a lot of recent college graduates and newlyweds gravitating towards this area. It’s a great overall atmosphere and that’s what we are hoping to capture at The Pub & Pourhouse.”
Change is inevitable, and those who realize the value of what can be gained by evolving are certain to reap the benefits. As Dana described to me, “change is absolutely necessary for success.” As The Pub & Pourhouse begins its journey to establish the perfect balance between neighborhood bar and gastropub with a speakeasy feel, you can rest assured that change is in the air and, without a doubt, this isn’t your daddy’s Brookline Pub.
The Pub & Pourhouse is set for a Grand Relaunch on Saturday, July 25th and ALL OF PITTSBURGH is invited! Yours truly will be in the house doing a special live podcast of Over a Couple of Beers and compiling a video of the relaunch festivities. Stay tuned to PCBN Mobile, as well as The Pub & Pourhouse’s Facebook and Twitter accounts to stay up-to-date on all the great happenings. See you guys on July 25th!
*Thank you to Brian Fornear for his extensive research on the history of The Pub & Pourhouse’s building and for providing the content for that section of this feature