Craft beer still flows at the 80-year-old mahogany bar. The kitchen still turns out meatloaf with sweet cream corn sauce. But can James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy still be James street without live music?
It’s hard to imagine, but that’s been the case since earlier this month, when Kevin Saftner, the pub’s general manager, was forced to shut down shows in the upstairs ballroom because of noise complaints. The pub, at 422 Foreland St. in the North Side, was warned, but a citation — it would be the second in less than a year — could mean a fine, a nuisance-bar designation or even closure, Mr. Saftner said.
Here’s the problem. The building, which is approaching 140 years old, has no air conditioning, so the only way to cool the upstairs ballroom is to turn on fans and open up the windows … and that has led to complaints about the noise, Mr. Saftner said. The solution? Electrical work, air conditioning, sound proofing, all with a price tag that has yet to be determined and a fairly tight schedule before the losses associated with keeping the ballroom closed become too great.
There are bright spots, however. A #SaveJamesStreet hashtag appeared not long after Mr. Saftner had to shut down shows in the middle of the Deutschtown Music Festival, one of the pub’s busiest days of the year. An Indiegogo campaign intended to raise $5,000 in the next month — enough to cover the costs of the initial electrical work — hit its mark in just over two days and is still rolling. And there are several promising fundraiser events coming up on the calendar.
Shows continue in the smaller basement speakeasy and, of course, the restaurant and main bar are still in business. But even with those, Mr. Saftner said renovations to the ballroom must be completed by the beginning of September to keep losses to a manageable level.
And in the meantime, he’s eyeing a more optimistic date: an Aug. 19 show, in the ballroom, with The Jauntee. If all goes well, he said. that’s when James Street will be complete again.
Post-Gazette coverage of James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy: