Thursday evenings are for exploring different places, knocking back a couple of beers or cocktails, and making some new friends. That's the idea behind the weekly meet-up called Pittsburgh Happy Hour.
The group, organized by Lou Kroeck and Krista Bland, has been touring Pittsburgh-area bars and restaurants for the past 18 months.
Although the original sessions were planned as meet-ups to merge two groups of friends, the roving happy hour now attracts participants through its wide social network. "It's a really mixed crew," Kroeck says. "Tonight we even have two folks from Reddit. They learned about it on there and just showed up."
Kroeck says that newcomers shouldn't be afraid to join the fun. "As long as you're willing to talk to people and be social, it's not an issue," he says. "Everyone is very welcoming. At some point we've all been the newcomer."
Matt Pierce took that advice to heart on his first visit. He'd been tracking the group through its Facebook page (which boasts more than 750 followers), and decided that his birthday would be a good time to join in.
"I just randomly showed up, not knowing anybody, and ended up having such a great time. I've been back for every one since then," he says.
Pierce says that, in addition to the fun group of people, the big draw is the diversity of locations the group takes in. Recent happy-hour themes have ranged from bars known for craft beers (Carson Street Deli) and pub grub (Redbeard's), as well as self-styled dives (Rock Room).
"One week you're at a really well-known place, the next week you're at a hole in the wall you didn't know existed, and now it's one of your favorite places," Pierce says.
Kroeck says that there are a few things he looks for when scouting out locations: "a great drink special, a great staff — and not too crowded so we can socialize."