East Liberty’s The Pines pursues a broad appeal | Drink | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

East Liberty’s The Pines pursues a broad appeal

“We realized there weren’t a lot of places to get a simple drink.”

click to enlarge Behind the bar at The Pines - CP PHOTO BY KRISTA JOHNSON
CP photo by Krista Johnson
Behind the bar at The Pines

The space that opened in late July as The Pines has seen many iterations over the past decade. Most notably, it’s the former home of the pioneering and much-beloved bar and performance space Shadow Lounge. When it joined the family of spaces co-owned by Justin Steel and Kevin Cox (who also own Bar Marco and the adjacent The Livermore), there were plans to make it hum with life again. For four years, the space (then called the Cloak Room) was used mostly for private events, but the group wanted something more.

“As the neighborhood has developed around it ... we realized there weren’t a lot of places to get a simple drink,” says general manager Zachary Maddox. “Within a hundred feet of here in any direction, you can get fancy cocktails. We wanted to try something different and a little bit more casual.” Enter The Pines, an eclectic bar that feels like your hip, slightly bohemian friend’s living room ... in the ’90s. This sense of casual comfort is what Brogan McGowan, the bartender and artist who spent about a year developing the space, is going for. “It was very intentional,” says McGowan. “It rounds out the three-tiered bar system where we have a wine bar, we have a cocktail bar, and now we have a beer-and-a-shot bar.” The building’s age would make installing a draft system enormously expensive, so the bar will stick to bottles and cans. Five or six widely available cheap beers will be supplemented by regional selections from breweries like Full Pint, Tröeg’s and Victory.

The menu is completed by an abbreviated classic-cocktail list and a shelf of “more frequently called-for spirits” like Grey Goose, Jim Beam and Hendrick’s. “Everyplace else we have, you need a menu to know what you want. Here, pretty much everything’s on the shelf. It’s non-confrontational,” says Maddox. Shots are offered, with a cheap beer-and-shot option for a total of $7 at all times. Oh, and the menus are printed on a set a multi-colored floppy disks on a single binder ring. Before opening, the staff hid a few around the city, promising a “treat” to whoever returned it. 

East Liberty is rapidly gentrifying, and the staff is intent on acknowledging the space’s history and making it inviting to everyone. “We are hoping that by having an accessible thing at a reasonable price point, and a friendly, diverse staff, that everyone will feel welcome,” says Maddox.

Steel and Cox have also been working with Juice UP 412, a black-owned pop-up business and longtime collaborator of theirs.

McGowan and bartender K. Gerard Painter Jr. are also dedicated to keeping the space creative, inviting performers for a kind of “living-room variety show.” Renowned queer Pittsburgh artist and performer moon baby has a weekly 12:30 a.m. performance slot on Sundays, and McGowan is seeking additional acts. “We’re extremely open to suggestion of any community events that might want to be held here,” he says.  

5972 Baum Blvd., East Liberty. 412-361-0060

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