Pittsfield’s Bubble Room an inflatable structure featured restaurants entertainment and even a pool History

Pittsfield’s Bubble Room an inflatable structure featured restaurants entertainment and even a pool History

Pittsfield’s Bubble Room: A Unique Inflatable Entertainment Hub

For over 25 years, Pittsfield’s Imperial Lanes, located at 10 Lyman St. just off East Street, was a bustling entertainment center. While many remember it for its bowling alleys, it was also home to the iconic Bubble Room, a supper club, restaurant, and cocktail lounge that left a lasting impression on baby boomers.

The Imperial Lanes was the brainchild of Al Bianchi and Lou Pia, both successful owners of smaller bowling alleys. They partnered with Martin Pullano Jr., a young lawyer and entrepreneur, who became the president and spokesperson for the venture. Their vision was to create a mega entertainment center by merging their businesses.

The Bubble Room in Pittsfield was one of the first supper clubs in the country to be housed in a tent-like structure, inflated by air pumped by three compressors. This colorful structure, made of plastic-covered nylon, was a standout feature at the Imperial Lanes on Lyman and East streets.

When the Imperial Lanes opened on January 1, 1962, it was the largest and most modern single-story bowling operation in Massachusetts, spanning 30,000 square feet. It boasted 40 bowling lanes, state-of-the-art equipment, a 206-seat restaurant and cocktail lounge named the Copper Pin, a snack bar, a nursery, a meeting room, and locker space.

Within a year of opening, the success of the business led the owners to plan the addition of a supper club. The Bubble Room was conceived as a large inflatable bubble tent, resembling a blimp. Construction began in June 1962 but faced delays due to a fire in December that caused extensive damage to the Copper Pin and kitchen area.

Finally completed on December 14, 1963, the Bubble Room was a massive, multicolored, plastic-coated nylon tent supported entirely by air. Separate from the bowling area, it featured the 57-seat Oriental Lounge, the 50-seat French Room, the Apache Bar, a steam room, an exercise room, locker rooms, and a new kitchen. The entire facility, including the bowling area, could accommodate up to 750 patrons and was collectively known as the Copper Pin.

The Bubble Room was anchored on an oval slab foundation, measuring 150 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 35 feet high at its center above a parquet dance floor. Three air compressors kept the 1,000-pound nylon tent inflated over a metal frame for safety. Inside, scaffolding supported lighting, sound equipment, and decorations for special events. A raised stage accommodated musicians and performers, while the room itself could hold over 500 patrons. It featured two service bars, a stand-up bar, and multiple wait stations. A unique feature was a small, free-form heated swimming pool with underwater lighting.

The Bubble Room quickly became a popular venue for business events, civic association meetings, award ceremonies, reunions, fashion shows, fundraisers, and wedding and anniversary parties. The restaurant was open for lunch and dinner during the week, and from Wednesday to Saturday evenings, it featured live music and dancing.

In the spring of 1965, a Boston promoter planned to stage weekly professional boxing matches in the center of the Bubble Room, with seating and tables set up for 500 patrons to dine during the bouts. However, low attendance led to the cancellation of further events. Wrestling events, featuring well-known wrestlers like Gorgeous George, were then scheduled during the summer, drawing around 250 spectators.

The Bubble Room also introduced the local community to a variety of musical entertainment, including a mini-Grand Ole Opry with performers from Nashville. As rock music gained popularity, local cover bands attracted patrons in their 20s to dance nights and college mixers.

The largest crowd ever in the Bubble Room was for a fundraiser for Mayor Remo Del Gallo in December 1965, which saw 800 attendees. Interestingly, hours after the event ended, a fire broke out in a shed housing the blowers for the air to inflate the room. No one was hurt, and repairs were made to reopen in a few weeks. The tent was replaced in March 1966, and some adjoining rooms were renamed and redecorated as the Casbah and the Jungle Room.

Despite its popularity, the Bubble Room faced challenges, including controversy over high school after-prom parties and college mixers, which required close monitoring and police presence due to underage drinking concerns. An archaic Massachusetts law prohibiting women from having liquor if not seated also posed issues.

The biggest challenge came in July 1966 when a violent thunderstorm damaged the tent. Despite repairs, the facility deteriorated, leading to its closure in the spring of 1968. Martin Pullano and his associates sued the manufacturer for poor design and installation, but the lawsuit took nine years, with the jury ultimately siding with the manufacturer.

The Bubble Room operated for just over four years, but its impact was significant. Many baby boomers still share fond memories of dancing, music, and meeting lifelong friends at the Bubble Room. It was a special place that created lasting memories for many.

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