“A brilliant intersection of local and international”


By Beverly Molnar

Photo provided by Pine Grove Hall

Finding the right words to describe Pine Grove Hall can be a challenge. Even the proprietor, Liz Grove, pauses to gather her thoughts before forging ahead. “We’re a destination,” she said. “We’re a live music venue for the academic community, but not just students. We’re a place to inspire local musicians to create and collaborate. We’re a place to relax, hang out and have a good time, but we’re not a tavern.”

Indeed, the tagline, “Eat. Drink. Listen,” barely scratches the surface of the total experience to be enjoyed at the venue, which opened in June 2020 at the location of the former Old Oak Tavern. Grove’s initial vision of “an upscale casual restaurant and bar with an emphasis on live music and a locally-sourced menu” comes closer. In contrast with the Victorian décor of the Old Oak Tavern, the early-twentieth-century art nouveau–inspired ambience harks back to the building’s vaudeville heritage.

Bellefonte native Grove is well-equipped to shepherd such an enterprise. After graduating from Penn State with a degree in piano performance, she moved to New York City to work in the music business for 20 years. “I loved music and wanted to be around creative people,” she said. Working in promotion and distribution for the radio and recording industries helped her learn various aspects of a dynamic and challenging industry. “I saw all these amazing things, and then I came back.”

Photo provided by Pine Grove Hall

In 2001, she returned to Happy Valley to help her father run his student housing rental business. When he passed away, she needed a new venture. A series of serendipitous events led to her connecting with the tavern’s previous owners, Steve and Kathy Herr, and the opportunity presented itself. She purchased the building and the existing liquor license and set about making her vision a reality.

“Having these local relationships can be the difference between success and failure.”

“My other jobs gave me the experience I needed to run most aspects of a hospitality business,” she said. “For the things I couldn’t do on my own, so many people came together to help in so many ways. That’s what happens when something is needed.”

One aspect with which she was unfamiliar was food selection and preparation for the restaurant. That help arrived in the form of Tory Glossner, former chef for RE Farm Café at Windswept Farm in State College, who draws fresh, locally-sourced ingredients from local farms and producers for the ever-changing menu of dinner, casual fare and Sunday brunch selections.

“One of the unexpected results of how we run our business is how local-centric we are,” Grove said. “We work with more than 35 farmers and purveyors to source our food, and with hundreds of local and regional musicians to book entertainment. All our staff are local. So we are definitely a homespun operation. Having these local relationships can be the difference between success and failure.”

The entertainment model is where Grove’s background shines through. She drew inspiration from Elk Creek Café & Aleworks in Millheim, another locally-sourced venue offering a lineup of live performances by local and touring musicians.

“The difference is we want to offer a little of every genre — classical, jazz, bluegrass, rock — as well as comedy acts, lectures, poetry readings, film screenings and more,” Grove said. “There is so much talent in this area, but not many places that don’t cater to the college crowd. We didn’t want to be another sports bar, another burger-and-beer joint.”

Photo provided by Pine Grove Hall

Live music is performed at least twice a week on the main stage downstairs; a large private room upstairs can be reserved for private events and parties. Although reservations are not required, guests are encouraged to make reservations through the Resy app. While the main dining area seats up to 80, a typical non-music night may consist of 20 to 35 dinner reservations made through the app, Grove said. These guests are an eclectic mix of local residents and Penn State’s international, intercultural student/faculty population.

“Penn State brings in people from around the world, yet a few miles from the restaurant are families living within a few miles of where their ancestors lived 200 years ago,” Grove said. “Each bring their own perspectives and expectations to our food and our music. It’s a brilliant intersection of local and international and it means that we are constantly challenged — which we absolutely love.”

For more information, visit: https://pinegrovehall.com/


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  1. You didn't mention the awesome cocktails. World class, literally.

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