April 26, 1941: Long before Las Vegas appeared in the Nevada desert or the Rivers Casino opened on the city’s North Side, Pittsburghers flocked to private clubs. That was back in the day when state law required regular bars to close at midnight.
At that hour, the night remained young for politicians, lawyers, doctors and businessmen who gathered at The Bachelors’ Club, an East Liberty spot in the 6300 block of Penn Avenue. Starting in the 1930s and for roughly 20 years, this smoky, swanky retreat offered choice eats, premium liquor, dancing to the the music of live bands and roulette wheels that ticked faster than department store registers. Dice and poker games continued into the wee hours. Some club rooms were furnished with paneling and decorative objects from the razed East End mansion once occupied by Richard Beatty Mellon. In the 1930s, the club’s annual income was as high as $71,390.
In April of 1941, as a raucous Friday night slid into Saturday morning, the seven-piece orchestra stopped playing. At 1:20 a.m., state police swung sledges and crowbars to batter down the club’s six steel doors at the building’s front and back entrances.
Inside the club’s second floor rooms, police arrested patrons, including a city police magistrate named Frank T. Halloran, who insisted that he had just dropped in for a cup of coffee and a cheese sandwich. The crowd, newspapers reported, consisted of 40 smartly dressed women and more than 85 well-known men.
Police took the women’s names, then released them. The men were fingerprinted on site, a process that lasted six hours.
The club had lacked a liquor license since 1939 but that hadn’t stopped the party because booze was given away for free, a violation of state law. During the 1941 gambling raid, police seized $1,500 worth of choice liquor, bingo equipment, poker chips and two slot machines.
In February of 1942, the club applied for a new corporate charter, calling itself the EEEE club. That stood for Entertainment, Eating, Ease and Enjoyment. Early in 1943, the German American Musical Club moved from its Jane Street headquarters on the South Side into the Bachelors’ Club spacious club rooms.
Perhaps there was singing at the bar but gambling, dancing, drinking and smooching continued until some time in the 1950s, when the last call finally came for those wild and crazy bachelors and the club closed.