A 'Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood' bar in Downtown Pittsburgh? In spirit, not in name

Bartenders hit a roadblock in naming their soon-to-open spot

It has been a less-than-beautiful day in the neighborhood when it comes to the opening of Mr. Rogers, A Neighborhood Bar, which is on track to open in the Clark Building, Downtown, in November.

The Fred Rogers Company has issued cease-and-desist letters over the name inspired by the children’s TV show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” from the late beloved Pittsburgh native.

To be run by Spencer Warren and Carrie Clayton, the bar is one piece of a two-part project with Henry Dewey and Angela Earley of Penn Avenue Fish Company that will open at 245 Seventh St.

Connected by a small hallway across from the bar, the second piece is a relocation of the Downtown Penn Avenue Fish Co., which closed earlier this year at 308 Forbes Ave. It has been renamed Penn Cove Eatery, featuring soup, sandwiches, sushi and salads for eat-in or takeout. Penn Cove also will have a wine shop selection put together by local restaurant sommeliers such as John Wabeck of Spoon. 

It’s an unusual tale as to how Mr. Warren and Ms. Clayton first decided on the Mister Rogers name, but a highlight includes Mr. Warren vetting it with an unlikely source: Steven Soderbergh, award-winning director and producer of films such as “Traffic,” “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Magic Mike.”

Mr. Soderbergh was with Mr. Warren a few months ago in relation to Singani 63, his line of Bolivian distilled spirits, when Mr. Warren ran the name by him and got his response on video.

“Mr. Rogers is the best bar name I’ve heard in the past five years,” he says in mock-seriousness to Mr. Warren’s iPhone camera. “This discussion has to end now.”

Mr. Spencer and Ms. Clayton tentatively moved forward with the name, followed by multiple media outlets running the story about the bar’s opening and name. Shortly afterward, the duo received cease-and-desist letters from the Fred Rogers Company and have since been consulting with their lawyer.

The result is a bar name that’s a work-in-progress. So far, Mr. Warren and Ms. Clayton have dropped “A Neighborhood Bar” and are testing “Mr.” versus “Mister” and “Rogers” versus “Rogerz” — and other variations.

Joanne Rogers, Fred Rogers’ widow, has not responded for comment. Original episodes of the wholesome children’s show aired from Feb. 19, 1968 to Aug. 31, 2001. Fred Rogers died in 2003.

In the meantime, the bar is pushing forward with the rest of the build-out. The owners of the Clark Building offered the crew slabs of marble that were lying around the basement, which has led designer Justin Giunta to line the base of the bar with a domino motif. Seating and lights have a mid-century feel in a space that can fit at least 60 customers.

In other plans, Mr. Warren and Ms. Clayton will bring back their holiday cocktail pop-up around the same time they're opening the bar. Last year, the pop-up at 539 Liberty was called Miracle on Liberty. The second run is slated for a different location, at the Original Oyster House in Market Square.

Inspired by the holiday classic “Miracle on 34th Street,” the duo had no run-ins regarding the legality of the movie-inspired name, with bartenders in other cities opening Christmas bars such as Miracle on Ninth Street in New York and Miracle on Seventh Street in Washington, D.C.

That they’re opening two bars with pop culture-inspired names at the same time fits with their proclivity for testing boundaries. 

“He says yes to everything,” Ms. Clayton said. “And I say no to just enough.”

Melissa McCart: mmccart@post-gazette.com


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