Ties That Bind
Diesel Club Lounge Reinvents Nightlife in the Steel City
Traveling through Pittsburgh, the remnants of the steel city’s past adorn the streets, with old-fashioned buildings transformed into local eateries, apartments, pubs and watering holes. Among these modernized relics sits Diesel Club Lounge, the brainchild of brothers Adam and Mike DeSimone, a venue that is part of Pittsburgh’s storied history, as well as its rich future.
Loyalty and a strong sense of family, it seems, are important to Pittsburghers, who stake a fanatical claim to anything of notoriety to hit the city: The Steelers, Andy Warhol, Fred Rogers, etc. The brothers DeSimone, native Pittsburghers themselves, are devoted to developing their home city, and Diesel is their unique contribution to keeping Pittsburgh vibrant.
And the club itself is vibrant, indeed. Now in its fifth year, and after a remodel last April, the sprawling 7,600-foot, two-story club is enjoying a surge in patronage, creating familial ties that bind with its clientele. Mike credits a strong and evolving street and Internet promotional effort that continues to expand for this growth. “I’d say in year three and four, we’ve worked the hardest because we weren’t the new club in town. We’ve scratched and clawed for all the new people that come through the door.”
The brothers’ strategy is simple: build a core, loyal Pittsburgh audience by offering them exclusivity unavailable at other bars on the Carson Street block. “The club will be full, but we’re only getting 10% of the clientele walking through the South Side, so we have to cast a bigger net out there,” Mike says of their ongoing outreach efforts.
While other clubs in the area often close their doors within months of opening, Diesel has become a Pittsburgh staple; a high-end alternative that makes it the only “real” club in the city. Spending time in the club before it opened for the evening, as well as during a raucous Saturday night, I noticed that Diesel is hip yet neither alienating nor intimidating to small town natives — like myself — especially those not familiar with the club scene. Once inside, clubgoers are transported into a posh space fit for the Vegas Strip or South Beach, meaning that Mike and Adam successfully integrated an upscale nightclub into Pittsburgh culture. DJs do their part to keep the dance floor full by playing music ranging from Top 40 hits to electronica, from old school R&B to hip hop.
One factor in the club’s staying power is the longevity of its staff. “It’s very much like a family here,” Mike says, noting that the team is comprised of five or six employees who have been with Diesel since day one, like “Big” Steve Feltovich, who started off as head of security and is now the club’s VIP host.
“It’s a good mix between being in an unbelievable location, the best location in the city, really, and the team of people we surround ourselves with,” Adam explains. “Everyone has a specialty. We also wear multiple hats, whereas I may be strong in operations/business, my brother is good at promotions and operations, and [Entertainment Director] Drew [Meyer] is great with lighting, sound and entertainment.”
Another element of Diesel’s success: the décor. Upon arrival, we were escorted to our skybox on the second floor, which overlooks the dance floor. Six other skyboxes line the outside. Mike and Adam say the skyboxes are “sunken” into the room, hinting that they keep guests in their own private area, away from the clubgoers hanging around the second floor bar. Each skybox features LCD televisions with LED lights flanking the VIP areas, laser-etched glass tables (with Diesel’s logo, of course) are at each VIP section as well. Not to mention the intimate White Room, a focal point in the upper area of the club used for private parties — all features that contribute to the luxe feel of the venue.
From the mosaic tile floors to the stainless steel railings to the custom-made leather upholstered modular furniture — handpicked by the Diesel team — the décor elements speak to the meticulous attention to details and the intense effort constantly poured into the club.
“One of the things important to us is more quality areas than quantity areas,” Adam says, explaining the renovation meant moving away from 10 tables crowding a section to four or five intimate areas. “You feel like you have a larger area to yourself, and we can up our spend levels so we’re making as much as we did before,” he explains.
This amalgam of smart business sense, loyalty to Pittsburgh and an understanding of its core demographic makes Diesel a stand out in the steel city. NCB