MICHAEL DIVITTORIO|Friday, August 21, 2020 9:04 p.m
New Kensington native Phil Imm knows having new businesses in town can be a blessing for the local economy.
So when the chance came up to help run a brewery near his backyard, he grabbed it.
Voodoo at the Ritz is open for business in New Kensington.
“It means a lot,” said Imm, general manager. “I’ve been in the craft beer scene for a little while, so having this come to town and be the kickoff was huge to me. I’ve been traveling to Pittsburgh for the last four or five years just to work in the industry. To be able to do it in my backyard is huge. Hiring local bands and doing everything we can to keep the money in our town is what I’m focusing on.”
Voodoo at the Ritz is the colloquial name for the new Voodoo Brewery location at the site of the former Ritz Theater at 956 Fifth Ave.
It was open for outdoor drinks a couple months ago. Its formal grand opening — with indoor seating and food — was Friday night.
“The community’s supported us from day one,” Imm said. “We had great feedback. The community loves it as much as we need it. We’ve got a lot of regulars already, and we’ve only been open for a few months.”
Customers give ‘likes’
Karen Cascone of New Kensington is one of the regulars. She said she’s been to Voodoo several times and was excited to finally see everything open.
“Their beer here’s very good. It packs a wallop,” Cascone said. “I think this is wonderful for New Kensington. We moved back a year ago and were so excited that they opened this place. The fact that they’re offering food really does make it a better place to land. They give you a lot of options, which is wonderful.”
Cascone had the West Coast IPA, Good Vibes. She attended Friday’s festivities with her daughter and son-in-law, Star and Scott Laliberte of New Kensington.
Star Laliberte said she came specifically to support the business’ grand opening and make another entry to her and her sister’s food blog, @gourmandburgh.
“Most of what I do is closer to the Pittsburgh area, but this is our hometown,” she said. “It would be wonderful if we could bring people here from other communities, as well.”
They sampled the pulled pork nachos, hummus and vegetables and a duck prosciutto and burrate pizza. They said everything was delicious.
Madyson Keller of Wheeling, W.Va., made the near two-hour trek with family and friends to celebrate her 22nd birthday at Voodoo.
“We came here once before, and I really liked it,” Keller said. “I think it’s a cool environment. There’s good drinks and good hospitality.”
Patrons wore masks inside and socially distanced. Tape was used to help guide guests. All staffers wore masks and frequently washed their hands.
Imm said they sanitize restrooms and other touch spots such as doors regularly. Free masks were available for patrons who arrived without one.
Voodoo’s closest location is in Homestead. It has locations in Erie, Grove City, Meadville, Lancaster and State College, with another planned in Washington, D.C., according to its website.
Imm said patrons will be welcomed with the same great service and drinks as the other locations. The New Kensington spot is independently owned by Mike Malcanas.
Tables used in the outside area are repainted wooden wire spools. Wooden doors painted by community members last summer decorate the indoor ceiling, and old movie reels were installed into the walls and indoor bar.
Imm said those are examples of how they were able to repurpose things to create a fun and friendly atmosphere.
They plan on having local bands and comedians perform in the outdoor area.
Crews had to replace windows, repair the roof and make other improvements when a tornado ripped through in April.
“Tornadoes don’t hit around here, and it was just such a weird thing,” Imm said.
A mural featuring a phoenix was painted across the side of the 5,000-square-foot facility by artist Shane Pilster, another example of the shop rising from the ashes.
Some of the drinks available include two Baltic porters from the barrel room collection. The brews were aged for at least 12 months in separate barrels soaking up whiskey and other spirits. Lacto-Kooler is a sour Berliner style weisse, a green beer that has a green apple taste.
Voodoo Brewery has about 50 to 70 brews in its collection. Some are seasonal, and others are year-‘round, such as Voodoo Love Child (9.5%) and White Magick the Sun (7.3%).
Beer-to-go is sold in a four-pack of pints as well as 32-ounce crowlers and 64-ounce growlers.
Hours of operation are 4-10 p.m. Thursdays, 4-11 p.m. Fridays, noon-11 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Beer-to-go is sold in a four-pack of pints as well as 32-ounce growlers and