Party Plans: Dance club, speakeasy to open in former downtown Harrisburg bar

(From left) Justin Browning, owner of Nocturnal and Lovedraft’s, Serena Lawhon, assistant manager of Nocturnal, and Joshua Stambaugh, district manager of Lovedraft, in front of Nocturnal’s nightclub.

A new place to dance, drink and party is in downtown Harrisburg.

The former Susquehanna Ale House on N. 2nd The street soon becomes “Nocturnal,” a dance club with upstairs speakeasy-themed rooms.

Harrisburg restaurateur Justin Browning said he bought the building in hopes of reviving downtown nightlife, which has waned since the pandemic.

“I don’t want to see 2nd The street is dying,” said Browning, who owns JB Lovedraft’s micro pub downtown. “I hope that with the return of nightclubs, nightlife will be better on March 2ndnd Street.”

This will be Browning’s fifth venture in the area as he also operates Lovedraft’s Mechanicsburg and York locations and will soon be opening a stand at Broad Street Market in Harrisburg.

The approximately 12,000-square-foot building will have a DJ-run dance club called “Nocturnal” on the first floor. There are two floors above, which will offer a 1920s vibe and high-end cocktail bar feel, Browning explained.

The building is still undergoing renovations, but the upper floor will retain the 1920’s feel it currently has.

The 1940’s building originally housed a hardware store and later the Harrisburg Hardware Bar before becoming the Susquehanna Ale House.

There is an entrance to the Upper Speakeasy on the side of the building on Pine Street. Under previous ownership, the entrance led to “Madam Knock’s Pine Street Beauty Parlor”, a small salon with a hidden entrance to the speakeasy. According to Browning, they plan to keep the secret entrance but redesign it with a new feel. The speakeasy will have a different name, although Browning plans to keep it under wraps for the time being.

The secret Pine Street entrance to the upstairs speakeasy remains, but Browning plans to redesign it.

Browning wants to make sure the nightclub is safe for visitors. The building will use metal detectors and staff will be trained to look out for guns and illegal drug use, he said.

“We want to go ahead and make sure it’s a safe environment and inclusive for everyone,” he added.

Ultimately, employees hope the new store will encourage people to return to downtown Harrisburg and feel safe doing so.

According to Browning, he plans to open Nocturnal by the end of February and expects to be open Thursday through Sunday.

“I’m really excited to bring nightlife back,” said Nocturnal Assistant Manager Serena Lawhon. “It’s going to be where people want to go. There aren’t many options, so it’s going to be very exciting.”

Nocturnal is located at 236 N. 2nd St., Harrisburg.

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