Hall Down Under ready to rock and roll
Local residents don’t have to go all the way to Australia to go Down Under. They can simply get in their car and drive to Dunlevy.
A new entertainment venue called Hall Down Under staged its’ first concert on November 21 with four bands. They included Doctor Nasty and the Mountain Men, Hear Tonight, Different Places in Space and guitarist Josh Gilotty accompanied by vocalist and flutist, Stevie Nemetz. More concerts are now on the horizon.
The Hall Down Under, an entertainment space where patrons can sit on benches and chairs set around tables, occupies the lower level of Mariner’s Hall, which gets its name from its proximity to the river and its location at 13 Wharf Street. The upper floor is a hall rented out for parties, weddings, business meetings and banquets.
Owners Brian and Mary Beth Short bought what was once the former Garibaldi Hall in 1995, then staged flea markets on the lower level while reserving the upper floor for banquets and similar events.
“At the time, I was looking for an investment and something to do,” said Mr. Short, a resident of California. “I think I must have temporarily lost my mind when I bought it.”
Finding it hard to operate the business while, at the same time working as a miner for CONSOL Energy at the Enlow Fork Mine, he couldn’t give the Dunlevy business his full attention. Things changed for the better in 2012 when he retired after 25 years on the job.
Trying to make the business a bit more successful, he launched a first floor renovation project last spring. As a result Hall Down Under is now operating with a newly built stage, a fresh paint job and a high quality sound and light system.
“Our major goal is to give young bands in the area a place to play,” Mr. Short said. “Our son, Izaac, plays guitar and sings with Doctor Nasty and the Mountain Men, and my wife and I see the challenges he and his band face getting started. To be successful, young bands have a lot more to learn than just playing an instrument. They also have to develop stage presence and learn how to set up and tear down at a venue that’s featuring several bands in one evening. We’re hoping that Hall Down Under will give them the valuable learning experiences they need.”
Izaac’s rock band has already played in places like the Rex Theater and the Smiling Moose on Pittsburgh’s South Side and at the Night Gallery in Lawrenceville. The young guitarist writes many of his own songs and tries to avoid playing cover songs. The band has its own Facebook page and also has postings on YouTube.
On January 24, Hall Down Under staged a public open house that featured the music of The Jades and food prepared by Bruno’s and Sons of Charleroi. During the full-to-capacity open house, the Shorts also gave away a gift basket and T-shirts emblazoned with their business logo.
“At the moment, we plan to start off conservatively with a band or two each month,” Mr. Short said. “In mid-February, we’re planning on having two bands come in, but eventually want to add performance artists such as comedians to the schedule.”
Upcoming events will be posted on Hall Down Under’s Facebook page, and the owners will also post fliers around the area.
“The bands will also be responsible for advertising their concerts, which is part of their learning process,” Mr. Short said.
Admission to the concerts will usually cost $5, and some events will be BYOB while others will be alcohol free. Food such as hot dogs, tacos, sloppy joes, chips and soft drinks are available for purchase from the concession kitchen. The Shorts expect to draw audiences from all over the Mon Valley as well as students from nearby California University of Pennsylvania.
At the moment, Mr. Short handles the maintenance, scheduling and security duties of the business while his wife, a registered nurse who works in the IT unit at the Donnell House at Washington Hospital, handles advertising and the sound and light systems. The couple is also exploring the idea of having student interns from Cal U. come in to learn how to operate the sound and light systems.
Patrons can also rent the upper hall for banquets, weddings, business meetings and parties. While the hall has an operating kitchen, renters have to either bring in food they prepare elsewhere or hire a caterer.
“We recommend Bruno and Sons of Charleroi, which we stumbled on one day while looking for a place to eat,” Mr. Short said. “We liked the place so much, we asked them to cater our recent open house, for which they prepared a beautiful array of hors d’ouevres.”
The rental fee for the hall is determined by the size of the event. A wedding, for instance, will cost more than a retirement party, and the minimum fee is $150 for a small event such as a business meeting.
“If we have something going on downstairs, naturally we won’t book the banquet hall for the same day,” Mr. Short said.
For more information, phone: 412-445-7086.
Story by Dave Zuchowski for Pennsylvania Bridges