ain’t no Hollaback club.
– often nicknamed the city of cows – is an otherwise
nondescript medium-sized city sitting at the intersection
of Interstates 83 and 81 in south central Pennsylvania. Three
and a half hours west of New York City, Harrisburg’s
only claim to fame is its proximity to Three Mile Island.
That, and its revitalization of downtown.
What used to be a deserted run-down mesh of sidewalks you’d
only be caught dead on after dark has now turned into a bustling,
thriving mecca of nightclubs, bars, lounges and restaurants.
One of the newest additions to the scene is The Quarter, a
New Orleans-themed five-level powerhouse that bucks the trend
of just-turned-21 “OMG PARTY BARS” by going after
a slightly more mature late-20s-and-up crowd.
Thursday. Opening night for The Quarter. Everyone in central
PA has been hearing rumors about this place for at least a
year now. Details were always sketchy at best, so we were
double-pumped with excitement when we walked through the front
door for the first time.
The first thing that struck me was the lack of security. Not
only were there no bouncers in sight, but there was nobody
at the door checking ID. That’s not only weird, it’s
dangerous. Borderline suicidal in this industry. Anyway, we
waltzed right in and took it in: the smell of paint still
in the air; Top 40 with a touch of hip-hop pumping through
the house sound system loud enough to provide atmosphere but
not to be obnoxious. A bar where I don’t hear “Holla
Back Girl” 27 times a night? Awesome!
We went to the bar. This is where the trouble begins. I paid
$3 for my bottle of Yuengling Lager (try it when you’re
in PA, you’ll thank me). A little steep for Harrisburg,
but not ridiculous. Then my girlfriend ordered: $9 for a Red
Bull and vodka. That, my friends, is beyond ridiculous for
Harrisburg! I can walk up the street to our most upscale lounge
and pay $7 for the same drink, and THAT would be expensive.
The same RBV would cost me $4.50 at a local club. To top it
all off, the drink was basically Red Bull; I think maybe the
bartender waved the vodka bottle near the drink.
Sometimes you pay for atmosphere, and believe me, this place
has a vibe. but they can’t charge 30 to 100 percent
more than their competition and expect to stay in business.
I think they have a good thing going, but they need to water
down their drink prices as much as they water down their drinks.
We arrived a little after 10pm and got our drinks. My 7&7
set me back $6; and they went a little heavy on the 7 (Up),
and not the good 7 (Seagram’s). Still, it’s opening
night. I’ll cut them some slack.
Only three of the five levels were open, with the other two
slated to open sometime in June. The basement is a very cool
speakeasy-like layout, with rough stone walls, old-looking
pub tables, and a fake distillery. Damn that thing was cool!
Dim red incandescent lights and some multi-color PAR cans
shining were the only sources of illumination – nice
and dark – on what looked like a stage area or dancefloor.
The soundtrack was early twentieth century jazz. Very, very
chill. I’m all about my ultra-lounges, but every now
and then, ya just gotta kick it old school.
The ground floor is a restaurant serving mainly seafood, with
huge roll-up windows that open to outdoor seating. The kitchen
has a bar, so you can actually drink while watching the chef!
The big problem here was the garage door openers that opened
and closed the outdoor windows: The lights kept coming on
every 15 minutes. Probably one of those “opening night
The upstairs (third floor) was a sports bar. The basement
was dimly-lit, and the ground floor was pretty bright, so
I wasn’t surprised when I found daylight on this floor.
Come on, guys, tone it down. I know it’s a sports bar,
but this is overkill. A nice touch was eight quality pool
tables – something downtown has been missing for half
One big deal for me was the sound system. I didn’t get
a good look, but I think I saw a few QSC amps scattered around.
The sound was clean, and the volume was perfect. Loud, but
not too loud to talk over. Overall, this place has potential.
Aside from the prices, every complaint I can think of could
probably be attributed to it being opening night.