Lawrenceville’s Thunderbird Café & Music Hall is getting ready to reopen after two-and-a-half years of renovations.
The historic Pittsburgh hotspot will celebrate its comeback with a series of events this spring. On Apr. 6, Sunsquabi, a Denver-based jamtronica act, will christen the new Music Hall stage. Neyla Pekarek, formerly of The Lumineers, will perform there on Apr. 13.
Roxian Live, along with frequent co-presenter Grey Area Productions, will book a full calendar of national, regional and local musicians. The programming at Thunderbird will include a wide variety of genres, including roots and indie rock, blues, bluegrass, jam, jazz, funk and soul.
“We’ve expanded on what we originally created,” owner John Pergal tells NEXTpittsburgh. “Our main goal with these renovations was first and foremost to create a space that is great for both the performer and the patron. From sight lines to acoustics, hospitality to entertainment, the overall concert experience will be enhanced.”
Originally built as a bakery in 1890, the structure has undergone several makeovers. In 1933, it became Michalski’s Café, the second bar in Pittsburgh to receive a liquor license after Prohibition. Pergal and his wife Ami bought the building from Frank Michalski in 2000 and opened Thunderbird Café, giving musicians a place to showcase their talent and providing locals with a friendly watering hole.
It was a popular place, but size constraints limited the number of people who could enjoy it.
Thunderbird Café closed for remodeling in August 2016, with Chris Lasky, a local architect and friend of the Pergals who designed the first expansion, assisting with the upgrades.
Properties on each side of the original structure, located at 4053 Butler St., were purchased by Pergal’s Lawrenceville Holdings and that’s when the merger of the three properties began.
The new Music Hall section of the venue, which will only be open on event nights, was outfitted with a full-service kitchen, a new, larger stage, multiple bars, lounge areas, an elevator and a green room. The updated capacity is now 382 people.
The Café section will debut at the same time as the Music Hall and will be open to the public seven days a week during normal bar business hours. A small stage area in the back of the Café will host solo artists and small, acoustic ensembles.
Café customers can order street-type foods, barbecue and pizza by the slice. Beverage options will rotate by the season, with 20 craft beers on tap.
Pergal says he’s retained plenty of elements from the old business to make long-time customers feel at home.
“I think, without a doubt, both old and new friends of the Thunderbird will appreciate the hard work that has gone into the building,” he says. “Honestly, we’re excited to see the look on everyone’s face when they walk into the venue.”