The restaurant Max’s Allegheny Tavern served as a filming location for the Amazon Freevee series “American Rust” during the week of March 6.
The owners of Max’s Allegheny Tavern provided a location to film three scenes for the second season of the series, which will now stream on Amazon Freevee. The first season of the crime-drama series is based on a novel by Philipp Meyer.
It had originally aired on Showtime, but was canceled after the first season until it was taken up by Amazon Freevee and reinstated for a new season. According to Showtime Network, the story centers around the life of a chief of police played by Jeff Daniels, and takes place in “an economically devastated Pennsylvania steel town.”
Max’s, located at 537 Suismon St., has been a constant resident of Historic Deutschtown since its origins in the 1800s. The locale originally housed a grocery store until it was turned into a hotel in 1860. A businessman named George Rahn bought the building in 1901 and, in 1903, purchased the next lot over, built on that, and renamed the entire structure “Hotel Rahn.”
The hotel was later bought by a couple who named it Max and Erma’s Allegheny Tavern in 1977 but had to change the name to Max’s Allegheny Tavern to avoid legal issues that could surge from the trademark, hence the birth of Max’s.
The rich history of the property has left its remnants in the structure itself. The main dining room is where the grocery store was located, and the windows still resemble those of a storefront. From the Rahn era, the tiles in the entrance remain authentic and still spell Hotel Rahn. The bar is the same one from the original hotel and the two massive oak ice boxes are still used to chill beer.
These original features are exactly what attracted the attention of film and TV producers to the tavern. Owners Doug and Kelly Diegelman said they are used to receiving requests from producers of various series and films. Doug acquired the business from his father, who worked at Max’s as a busboy and a bartender before becoming a manager and eventually owning it. Doug, who also worked at the tavern, confessed he always loved the business and knew from a young age he wanted to buy it from his father.
“I went to college and did other things, but my father asked me to come back and help out in the front,” he said. “I knew I wanted to make this my life at some point but I had a lot to learn, so I came back to work for him for about 12 years until he retired.”
The owners admitted that even though they are always happy to provide a location, hosting these types of events is still a lot of work for them.
“I think as owners, it’s a lot of work. Reopening again and getting everything back and ready, but it’s good publicity,” Kelly said. “If people hear Max’s was in this movie, it gives us free publicity.”
Doug’s personal history with the business adds another layer of appreciation for the exposure the business gets from these events.
“It’s a great building and a great business with a lot of history,” he said “It should be used for that stuff. It’s nice to see people appreciate the building like we do in the business.”
Doug and Kelly shared with The Chronicle their experience of hosting various production teams at the restaurant.
“Usually [the producers] go around a bunch,” Doug said. “They scout every valley, but now he has my phone number.”
So far, Max’s Allegheny Tavern has been used as a set for the true-crime series “Manhunt” and two movies, “An American Pickle” starring Seth Rogen, and “A Man Called Otto” starring Tom Hanks.
According to Doug, the experience with the “American Rust” crew went much faster than their previous experience.
“The producer shot me a text saying they were looking for somewhere to film, and they came in and looked, and decided pretty quickly they wanted to do it here,” he said.
Doug also shared the crew’s itinerary with The Chronicle.
On the three days filming took place, the restaurant was closed, but the work taking place inside was not any less demanding. On the first day, they set up the whole scene. Doug opened the door for them at 7 a.m., and from then on until 4 p.m., props were being brought in and dining room booths were being temporarily removed. The second day was reserved for filming as well as rehearsals that preceded each scene’s recording.
Kelly told the Chronicle how different those days are for the business.
“On filming days it’s quiet,” she said. “When they’re setting up and taking down we can do whatever we want, but on film days they ask us to be quiet.”
On the third day, they finished shooting and picked up everything they brought in. Doug told The Chronicle that even though some things get damaged while filming, the crews are exceptionally good at making it look like they weren’t even there in the first place.
“If they scratch something, they fix it. They’re amazing,” Doug said. “Usually, it’s better than it was before. This time they fixed a piece of furniture out there that they didn’t even break,” Doug said.
Although both Kelly and Doug describe these experiences as “a lot of work,” when asked if they would do it again, the answer was a resounding “yes” from both.
Max’s Allegheny Tavern will be featured in the second season of “American Rust,” which is expected to begin streaming on Amazon Freevee at the end of 2023.