In the great beer hall at Hofbrauhaus every Thursday night, college students dance under the warm light of chandeliers to authentic live music — partaking in a beloved College Night tradition.
But when Pitt senior accounting and business information systems major Derek Arnold walked into College Night during the first week of January, he realized one key element was missing — the live band, the Haus Band Trio. In its place was a DJ — a common feature in many Pittsburgh bars, but something that appeared odd in the Hofbrauhaus atmosphere.
“I kind of figured since this was an off week, you know, the college kids aren’t here, they have a DJ for this one night,” Arnold said.
Hofbrauhaus — a South Side restaurant and brewery — has been the site of the beloved College Night experience every Thursday for almost a decade. Modeled after its contemporary, the Hofbrauhaus of Munich, the atmosphere boasts traditional German festivities, Bavarian dishes and sometimes German folk bands such as the Haus Band Trio.
Arnold had been an avid College Night attendee — largely because of the band, which often plays covers of popular songs in the German folk style.
With hopes that the band would soon be returning, Arnold’s friend and fellow Pitt student, Max Kneis, a senior finance and accounting major and President of Student Government Board, attended Hofbrau College Night the following week. Much to their disappointment, the band had not been reinstated in the Thursday night slot.
“The band created an environment that was very fun and created a sense of community around everyone who was at the venue, which makes it really stand out from any bar in South Side or Pittsburgh in general,” Kneis said.
On a whim, Arnold took to Change.org three weeks ago — a website to host petitions— and wrote up a petition titled “Bring the band back to College Night.”
“Hofbrau got rid of the band and replaced it with a DJ. We need to let them know that the band was one of the best appeals of going to College Night at Hofbrau and we want them back!” the description read.
Arnold shared the petition on his Facebook page as well as with Kneis, who passed the petition around at the bar itself to get more signatures.
“That first night we got something like 60 or 70 signatures … it didn’t really take off,” Arnold said. “Then [after a week] a friend of mine sent me the petition and we saw that it had like 220 signatures on it — and this was without us pushing it.”
The number of signatures on the petition began to snowball — gaining 745 signature by Jan. 24. Other students, family members and band members shared the post to rally support. Arnold had even gotten in touch with some Pitt alumni and heard they were also sad to see their favorite tradition coming to an end.
Much support came from All Grk’d Up, a regional group that negotiates contracts and helps musicians perform traditional European music in the United States. All Grk’d Up — which has helped the Haus Band Trio with booking and representation in the past — came across Arnold’s Facebook posts and messaged him expressing interest in promoting his petition.
The restaurant announced on Facebook that the band will return in April, but until then, the Haus Band Trio will continue to perform Friday nights from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m.
“We know our loyal College Night fans love our regular band, the Haus Band Trio with All Grk’d Up, and we want to share that they’ll be back April 5. Until then, our Thursday College Nights will feature on of Pittsburgh’s favorite DJs, Carroll DJ Services. See you all tomorrow!” the post said.
Despite replacing the band with a DJ, general manager Tony Lucas still said that Hofbrauhaus has a tradition intact to offer the Pitt community.
“Change will always receive some sort of reaction. People will have some positive and some negative feedback,” Lucas said.
The original decision to create such a change, he said, was to fit the needs of current college students in the area. Being such a popular location for College Nights, Hofbrauhaus has also attracted attention as a party venue for certain Pitt events. Many of these events had a DJ, not a live band, but he said attendees appeared to enjoy the experience nonetheless.
Lucas recognizes, however, that many students did enjoy the live music of Hofbrauhaus, and he hopes to continue the tradition of dancing on tables in the uplifting atmosphere.
Kneis and Arnold both said they are proud they could gather support and effect change in a short time frame, and they hope this experience shows others just how easy it can be. Kneis said he is looking forward to attending future College Nights and hopes many future Pitt students will appreciate the same experiences.
“I’m really excited for the first College Night when the band comes back in April. I think it’ll be like a homecoming of sorts,” Kneis said. “You’ll see a packed house and a lot of excited Pitt students.”