Looking for a place to grab a stein of beer and show off your new lederhosen? Herman Pirchner's Alpine Village Theatrical Bar and Restaurant would have been the ideal place to do so. Inspired by Pirchner's childhood home in the Austrian Alps, Alpine Village was decorated with Tyrolean décor and murals of Bavarian peasant life. Pirchner's "lusty yodelers," "om-pa-pa" entertainment, and wait staff dressed in traditional leather breeches brought a little slice of the Alps to downtown Cleveland.
Herman Pirchner immigrated to the United States from Tyrol in western Austria in 1925. Departing from his childhood home, he left behind a future of working at his father's hostelry. Upon his arrival in Cleveland, he worked two jobs, one in a pretzel factory and one as a bus boy. Then, in defiance of Prohibition, he began to brew beer with his brothers, Otto and Karl. German social clubs would sell their finished product. Pirchner himself "could not understand how a beverage as wholesome and innocent as beer could be outlawed." When the Mafia expressed interest in taking over his operation, Pirchner's brewing career came to an abrupt close. He then started a new career as a restauranteur, opening the Alpine Shore Club, formerly known as Marigold Gardens, located on East 185th Street and Lakeshore Boulevard. In the upstairs of the establishment, Pirchner ran a speakeasy. Once again, the Mafia wanted a piece of the alcohol pie. The Mafia harrassed Pirchner, setting off stink bombs in the restaurant. Pirchner fought back with the help of the safety service director, Eliot Ness. After that he was never again bothered by organized criminals. Despite this rough start, Pirchner continued on his own road to success. Undaunted by hard work and passionate about entertainment, Pirchner decided to share his Alpine spirit with Cleveland's city center.
Officially opened on November 28, 1931, Alpine Village, located at 1614 Euclid Avenue, served as a popular destination for Playhouse Square theatergoers. Earning the well-deserved distinction as an excellent host, Pirchner would sport a feather cap and show a little knee with leather shorts supported with suspenders. He would offer yodels of encouragement to his folk dancers who were dancing on a stage that would mechanically rise and lower to give audiences a better view, and led patrons in singing the comedic traditional German song "Schnitzelbank." Employing skills developed during his earlier career as a carnival strongman, Pirchner dazzled his guests with "beer hefting," carrying numerous beer steins and delivering the steins to guests by sliding across the floor on his hindquarters. The Euclid Avenue establishment also housed two annexes, the Little Café, for those looking for a quick bite to eat, and the private Eldorado Club, where media personnel and upper echelon society members could enjoy a night out.
By the mid-1950s, with downtown starting a gradual downward trend, Pirchner was beginning to lose money in the Alpine operation, but he was too "emotionally involved" to close the business. In 1961, Pirchner declared bankruptcy and the Internal Revenue Service officially padlocked the restaurant because of more than $10,000 owed in back taxes. In 1962, Alpine Village opened under new ownership but was unable to regenerate the same success the business experienced in its heyday. Unfortunately, the string of businesses to follow continued this unsuccessful trend. In 1996, the building was razed for a parking lot.
Herman Pirchner passed away in February 2009 at 101 years old. Patrons of Alpine Village were lucky to have been able to experience Pirchner's Bavarian-inspired hot spot where he will always be remembered for the passion and hard work that he dedicated to his business. The next time you are out on the town in Cleveland and have the urge to treat yourself to an iced cold stein of beer, toast to the memory of Herman Pirchner, who would have been more than happy to slide it over to your table.