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Vibrancy Alert: Summer Brings Employment Boom for Downtown Restaurants

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By creating new jobs and attracting visitors to the area, new restaurants in downtown Pittsburgh are contributing to the neighborhood’s revitalization process.

76

people currently employed by Ritual House

350-400

bottles on Barcelona Wine Bar’s menu

2 a.m.

Friday and Saturday closing time of Whiskey B’s Bar and Kitchen

Chandeliers, salads served with sparklers, and Fruity Pebble French toast all make an appearance at Ritual House, one of downtown Pittsburgh’s most buzzed-about new restaurants.

After a bustling first year, Ritual House co-owners Herky and Lisa Pollock announced an expansion within their current location at the historic Union Trust Building, which features several other independent restaurants including Eddie V’s Prime Seafood and Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse. In contrast to those more traditional establishments, Ritual House aims to provide a cozy and decidedly un-corporate feel with its dining experience.

The upcoming expansion, set to open this December, allows Ritual House to host private events and larger parties that can accommodate up to 250 people. This expansion will not only bring more visitors to downtown, but more workers as well. “We have employees from all over Pittsburgh, including downtown. Some walk; some take the bus,” says Herky Pollock, a resident of downtown who recently described the opening of Ritual House as “a love letter to Pittsburgh.”

As a restaurant owner, Herky Pollock notes his position as an ambassador and stakeholder of Pittsburgh and believes it’s crucial to “enhance the vitality of Pittsburgh on a daily basis.” Pollock notes that downtown is a prime location due to its proximity to several hotels, sports venues, and the Cultural District.

New restaurants contribute to downtown’s revitalization as much as they rely on the process to bring more customers, and Ritual House isn’t the only restaurant creating new food-service jobs downtown. From a wine bar to a burger and whiskey joint, a variety of restaurants popped up in the first quarter of 2024 that contribute to downtown’s vibrancy.

A national chain, Barcelona Wine Bar opened its 22nd location in the Cultural District in February; this is the first in Pittsburgh. Like Ritual House, Barcelona Wine Bar provides a distinct atmosphere and menu, with over 350 wines available. Three months into its arrival here, weekend dinner reservations are still an enviable get.

Also in February, the new Whiskey B’s Bar + Kitchen arrived in Market Square. Co-owner Shiv Bandhu noted that being downtown allows the restaurant to receive a wide range of customers – from business travelers to younger people employed elsewhere in the downtown service industry themselves.

“Our business usually increases when there are certain concerts happening in the downtown area,” says Bandhu. “A lot of shows at the Benedum play a factor into our busier days early in the week, since we are one of the few places open on Monday & Tuesday.”

As a family-owned business, Whiskey B’s currently employs over 15 servers who live throughout the city. Their extensive hours, opening from 11 a.m. to midnight from Sunday to Thursday and from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, give late-night diners a delicious meal option and allow Whiskey B’s staff to work more hours.

One of the city's oldest dining spots, the Terrace Room in Omni William Penn Hotel is now one of the newest to offer a dinnertime dining option. Open since 1916, the Terrace Room has mainly been used for weddings, breakfast, and lunch since 2017. In February, the restaurant breathed new life into the dinnertime service, reopening for the later daypart with a new menu and new executive chef.

The hotel is also planning events to take place in the Terrace Room, such as an executive chef’s table, chocolate buffets, and wine dinners, resulting in more employees staffed in various positions. Future plans at the Omni William Penn include an expansion of Speakeasy, their 1920s themed bar tucked away in the basement of the hotel.

Another hidden gem newly arriving on the Pittsburgh scene is the Japanese-inspired cocktail and sushi bar E.T.A., which replaces the wine bar in the back room of The Warren on Seventh Avenue.

As the summer emerges and tourism downtown increases, restaurants intend to remain well-staffed during this season and beyond. Downtown's ever-evolving scene of eateries fills the bellies of the patrons who frequent them – and the employees who staff them.

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