After nearly 15 years as Pittsburgh's flagship music venue for small-scale live entertainment, Metropol is closing its doors.
The future of the landmark Strip District nightclub that opened a Pittsburgh era of themed clubs and haute-couture design, along with its sister club Rosebud, lies in the hands of a group of young entrepreneurs who hope to revitalize the venues into world-class clubs.
Longtime owner Robin Fernandez, 47, has entered into a prospective agreement with Ryan Blumling, 23, and brothers Henry and Tommy Wang to take over his legacy to Pittsburgh nightlife.
"It's time for me to move on," Fernandez said, sitting in his Downtown club Bossa Nova. "I'm getting older and want to concentrate on Bossa Nova. [Metropol/Rosebud] needs a shot of new energy and new blood. It needs someone new to be creative with it like it was 15 years ago."
Fernandez and his brother, Eric, have been looking for a buyer for the past year, having concluded they could not continue to support the club in the changing entertainment culture.
"It's gotten tough to do nightclub business in this town," Fernandez said, alluding to other venues that have "destroyed the business with cheap drinks and young girls dancing on the bar."
Metropol will close its doors officially after a New Year's Eve celebration. It is expected to remain closed for 90 days, during which it will be renamed and refurbished. Rosebud, which offers live music and a limited menu for diners, will continue operations as is until April, when it will be closed for renovations expected to take 45 days.
Metropol was sold and later re-opened in October 2003 as Empire.
Although Metropol was sold in October, the struggling nightclub in its space, now known as Empire, holds the same liquor license as Rosebud, and both are licensed under Metropol of Pittsburgh, which is controlled by SportsRock Entertainment.
Empire was famous for a 2004 incident where they charged $200 for a headliner that "didn't show" or was never booked, depending on what you read.
Three days after police and Strip District merchants met to discuss curbing violence in the area, officers were called to quell a melee outside a night club in the neighborhood. Police had to pull narcotics detectives and officers from each of the city's five zones to handle a large, angry crowd of 500 to 700 people outside the Empire Club on Smallman Street yesterday about 1:40 a.m., city police said. Patrons were mad because the headliner act did not show up and the club had not issued receipts or rain checks after charging up to $200 to get in, police said. Fights broke out, but police managed to disperse the crowd in about an hour. No one was arrested, and one person suffered a minor injury. Empire management released a statement yesterday afternoon saying that Thursday evening's concert was independently produced by Goodfellas Entertainment of Pittsburgh, which collected ticket proceeds from the concert. Goodfellas could not be reached for comment.
Panic Bar at the Metropol was the standard Friday night destination for my friends and me in the early '90s.
I remember back in 1992-93 Dragon Ice Company (on Monday nights) and The Saloon in Mt. Lebanon (on Tuesday nights) were big Penguin hangouts.
legame, if you ever hear that Zappa Plays Zappa is coming to your area, then you have to try to go. It's a blast--a terrific show with amazing musicianship. It's Dweezil Zappa's band with a freakishly Frank-sounding lead singer, Joe Travers, and the immensely talented multi-instrumentalist Scheila Gonzalez.