When Jeff Ryan and Tom Barr decided to leave Brooklyn — experiencing, Barr notes, the “boomerang effect back to Pittsburgh” — they knew they wanted to utilize their skills, which included making good food and gourmet cocktails, and creating musical experiences. All of which culminated in their decision to convert Lawrenceville’s former Moose Lodge 581 into Spirit. Since its opening in April, the venue has accumulated high praise for its menu and events.
The space is large — two levels and 10,000 square feet — which allows for a broad array of musical happenings, from the typical band bill and DJs to festivals such as the upcoming RANT and VIA fests. And the artists coming through are pretty noteworthy. National acts like Surfer Blood and Rayland Baxter, along with local stalwarts the Rents and Pittsburgh-to-Brooklyn transplants Dazzletine, have all graced the stage at Spirit.
While Leigh Yock, a high school friend of Barr’s, does most of the booking for Spirit, others suggest shows as well.
“I would say something like 80 percent of our staff either plays in a band or is a musician,” says Ryan, “so there’s no shortage of ideas.”
“We’re down to do anything as long as it’s quality,” adds Barr. “If someone wants to put together a salsa [dance] night, we’ll do that as long as we think it’s going to be entertaining.”
The downstairs portion of the building has been slightly redesigned to accommodate a bar, kitchen, stage and sound system, the latter designed by co-owner Warren Pryde.
“We’re so concerned with having a good sound here that one of our owners is the sound engineer,” Barr says with a smile.
There is a lot of attention to detail, meant to encourage crowds to hang out after the band leaves the stage.
“It’s not just ‘Come, see a show and leave,’” says Barr. “When the band is done, we’ll keep the lights down, turn on the disco ball and make it a dance party.”
The objective for everyone at Spirit is to create a culture of collectivity. Whether it’s pairing visual artists with musical ones or hosting adult big-wheel races, anyone can suggest an event.
“Really,” says Ryan, “the best idea wins.”