Pittsburgh's BRGR Makes A Mistake Of Epic Proportions

When Buffalo Blues recently closed the rumor was that BRGR was going to be the new tenant in that huge space on Highland. Even though BRGR already has a successful location not a few hundred feet down the street the idea was that they would do even better if they were closer to Shadyside and farther away from Penn Circle.

Yesterday we learned that the exact opposite is true - BRGR is planning to move, but deeper inside Penn Circle instead of farther away

If you know anything about the reality of East Liberty and current national economic conditions then you know that BRGR is making a business mistake of epic proportions...

This is BRGR's current location on Centre Avenue

The building is located right across the street from the Eastside development which contains Whole Foods and Starbucks and is very popular with the local yuppies. Notice the cool rooftop dining area.

This is BRGR's future location on Highland and Penn, the former May-Sterns building

It's a great building and the dining area will be much larger than their current space. Clearly there's no possibility of rooftop dining, but that's not the real issue. The real issue is that yuppies are never going to embrace the new location. The corner of Highland and Penn is way too ghetto for the white urban professional crowd. This prediction also applies to the under-construction The Penn at Walnut on Highland apartment building at the same intersection.

Greedy restaurateurs and real estate developers who have had many past successes in other areas of the East End have completely misread the situation in the heart of East Liberty. They utterly fail to comprehend that there is an invisible Penn Circle barrier that stops some yuppies from going too far inside the area and stops other yuppies from going anywhere near the area.

Across the street from the BRBR location and the new Walnut Capital building is the dining and drinking establishment known as Capri Pizzeria & Bar

Capri has a nice clean bar with flat screen TV's and a decent menu that offers pizza, calzones, wings and a lot of other popular dishes. Even though the food at Capri is good, the beer is cold and the employees are friendly, the crowd that dines at BRGR wouldn't be caught dead at Capri - it's way too ghetto and not nearly trendy enough for yuppie foodies.

If you really have your ear to the ground then you also know that the police in East Liberty are now receiving tons of anonymous complaints about Capri, similar to what happened to the Shadow Lounge just before it was forced to close.

The yuppie business owners and developers want Capri out of there. They want all the current locals out of there, but they're not going to get their wish because consumer demand and spending power in East Liberty and surrounding neighborhoods is not nearly strong enough to displace thousands of local low-income residents. Add to that the fact that the current national economic recovery/expansion is losing momentum and you have a recipe for yuppie investment disaster

Below is a 2007 Google street view of the corner of Highland and Broad two blocks from the new BRGR. The picture was taken two years before Google established their office at Bakery Square at a time when they had no interest at all in the gentrification of the East Liberty. It is a good depiction of the area because it shows locals hanging out outside the William Penn Smoke Shop

Locals still like to hang out outside the smoke shop on the corner of Highland and Broad, but you would never know it from the 2014 Google street view, taken fours years after Google opened their office at Bakery Square and acquired a stake in the gentrification of the area

East Liberty is a great neighborhood, and its central location and perfectly flat topography will always make it a vibrant business district. Yuppie investors have had many successes on the perimeter of the neighborhood and a few successes inside Penn Circle, but BRGR (and the Penn on Highland) is not going to be among them.