There may still be life in Tarentum’s Cycle Diner, but not like a traditional sit-down restaurant.
The 1949 restaurant is owned by Gatto Cycle Shop and attached to its Harley-Davidson showroom along East Sixth Avenue.
In January, the Allegheny County Health Department denied him a permit to reopen. County officials said that was because the restaurant’s layout places the bathroom access aisle between two lunch counters or a food preparation area.
Cycle Diner has operated legally for decades with the current layout, but the county denied the recent request without considering the original approvals. Mark Gatto, vice president of the bike shop, said he was too busy to fight with the health department.
“We’re still trying to figure out what to do with it,” Gatto said.
He considered several options, such as turning it into a simpler operation like a cafe or possibly a take-out-only restaurant.
“It’s a shame,” he said. “It’s a cool setup.”
The structure is a classic O’Mahony restaurant that originally stood in Butler.
Gatto’s father, George, bought the building in 1990 and moved it to Taranto, where it was “lovingly restored”, in the words of Gatto’s website, and opened in 1993. It has closed in April 2019.
A new operator, John Clark of Clark’s Diner in Lower Burrell, intended to take over the space in early 2020, but those plans dissolved in the face of the pandemic.
The restaurant retains its original 18 red bar stools and a full-size Wurlitzer jukebox. Scenes from the 2008 movie “The Pittsburgh Mysteries” were filmed there.
Although he was frustrated by the county’s refusal to obtain a permit, Gatto said it opened up many discussions about the future of the site.
“A lot of people have contacted me, so we’ll see what happens,” he said. “It doesn’t really benefit me doing a take-out place, because the whole point of the dinner was to raise awareness in our showroom, not to make a profit on a burger.
“Cafés don’t need to have a cooking zone, so we’ll see,” he said. “Nothing is set in stone.”