A Grown-Up Venue

A renovated restaurant and bar in Pine Grove Mills offers locals an upscale alternative to the downtown live music scene.

Olivia Jones

State College native Liz Grove has no familial ties to the naming of nearby Pine Grove Mills, Pa. But her restaurant and live music venue there, Pine Grove Hall, has been making a name for itself since opening in June 2020. “I’ve had so many people come up to me and say a truly heartfelt, ‘Thank you for creating this space,’” says Grove ’84 A&A of Pine Grove Hall, which occupies the former Old Oak Tavern, built in 1900.

The success of Pine Grove Hall could be attributed to Grove’s unique background in business and live music. She had played keyboards in local band Skid Row (not the late-’80s metal band of the same name) while in college, then moved to New York City to work in the record industry, first in promotions and, eventually, in indie record distribution. She returned to Happy Valley in 2001, and a decade later, Grove and her old Skid Row bandmate-turned-life-partner Steve Christensen ’82 Eng formed a new band, Cone of Silence. But trying to book gigs in town opened her eyes to a missing piece of the area’s live music puzzle.

“We realized there was no place to play for older people. The bar scene was the same when we left 25 years before,” she says. “It was like a lightbulb moment.”

After several years of looking, Grove found her perfect location in the Old Oak Tavern, which she renovated with a 1920s art deco style. The stage backdrop curtains are from Frank Sinatra’s Atlantic City hotel suite, scored at an estate sale. She also splurged on lighting and sound system upgrades, installing seven cameras so they can livestream performances around the world. Pine Grove Hall hosts live music at least twice a week, including jazz on Thursdays, and Cone of Silence plays every six weeks. The upscale restaurant’s ever-changing menu of hyperlocal food by chef Tory Glossner draws from more than 30 local farms and producers. “Tory is like a jazz musician,” Grove says. “He takes the ingredients, what’s in season and available, and improvises.”