Problems with bars continue to be heard in South Side
Local taverns were the main focus of this month's overview of area crime by Zone 3 Commander RaShall Brackney during the October 10 meeting of the South Side Planning Forum.
She began by saying that crime statistics in the South Side reflect all the traffic being drawn here by the nightlife and other attractions.
One problem is the multitude of food and alcohol establishments which extend their businesses through outdoor cafes, but for which only four to five have legal permission.
“We're trying to deal with quality-of-life issues,” she said of residents' loss of sidewalk and parking space due to the unlawful extensions.
A week earlier she met with the owners of bars about which she has received numerous complaints about noise, drinking outdoors, possible drug activity and more.
“I was bar hopping in uniform,” she said.
The commander noted that Elixir was cited for not having sprinklers and other infractions. Valet parking has to be moved to the side of the building.
Taverns need a variance for valet parking, she said. Even so, valet parking is never allowed on Carson St. or on sidewalks.
She told the Elixir owners that she heard illegal acts were going on, and that she would send an undercover officer to make arrests.
It was also noted that the bar was cited by the Bureau of Building Inspection for not having an occupancy permit. The commander said she is in contact with the BBI, which has made it a priority to bring Elixir into compliance or be closed down.
When she met with the Town Tavern about complaints, they said their impression from a meeting with the South Side Local Development Co. was “you can get this done at your leisure.” Rick Belloli, executive director of the SSLDC, disputed that.
Commander Brackney walked through the Town Tavern checking off what had to be taken care of. One noticeable change is that the entrance and exit are no longer the same; patrons can now be clearly spotted if they are leaving with beer bottles.
She also told them their security must be trained in conflict resolution. The staff must check the bathrooms for illegal activity.
If an out-of-state disc jockey is hired for the evening, the commander must be informed as the DJ may bot be aware of local ordinances.
At Fix's Inn, she told the owner the bar needed soundproof doors and windows. He will also hire security for Fridays, and a police officer for Saturdays. She told him he could not hold private parties upstairs.
Before she met with the bar owners, her email system was filled with complaints. But a week later, she only received a few.
Her next stop will be Paparazzi Restaurant.
In the crime statistics report for the Flats from Sept. 10 to Oct. 10, there were: 5 aggravated assaults; 11 burglaries; 47 thefts; 4 robberies; 2 vehicle thefts; 5 drug arrests; and 1 Violation of the Uniform Firearms Act (VUFA).
To a question about the difference between robbery and burglary, Commander Brackney said robberies involve persons, while burglaries are thefts from homes and cars.
“You can't leave items in cars,” she warned.
She has also started working with Pittsburgh Action Against Rape.
In one investigation, a young woman claimed she was raped after a night on the town as an excuse for being out past curfew.
To a question from forum chair Hugh Brannan of whether forum organizations should monitor these establishments, Commander Brackney said it could be an effective tool.
When he asked for a check list of what to look for, she suggested that the local bar task force, some of whose members were present, compile a list.
To a resident's comment that she and her husband were thrilled to see the clean-up of litter and bottles from outside the bars on a Sunday morning, Mr. Belloli said the SSLDC has been paying for a clean-up crew for the past several years through grant funding.
Unfortunately, that funding ends in December.
In his report of the LTV Steering Committee, Mr. Belloli said the committee did not meet this month.
Regarding gaming, he reiterated the reported developments of the horse tracks having been licensed.
The other slot licenses, such as for Pittsburgh, are scheduled to be awarded by year's end. He expects Forest City Enterprises' proposed Station Square gaming development to be the local recipient. The casino would be managed by Harrah's Entertainment.
While a corporate takeover of Harrah's is pending, he said he expects such a change to be “seamless” as there is so much oversight in the industry.
As Harrah's Chester Casino & Racetrack is licensed in Chester, Pa ., it clearly meets state standards, he said.
Regarding the upcoming seventh revision to the neighborhood plan, Mr. Belloli said he wants to deal with the issue of the reuse of public facilities.
Christine Gaus said they “might want to cast a bigger net this time” to include people not at the forum table as she feels this revision will be more substantive than a mere tweeking.
They are also “not under the gun,” she said, there is no reason to hurry.
Mr. Brannan suggested putting together a strategy that makes community involvement a goal.
He said the “planning part of the plan” would be handled by Mr. Belloli, with use of the SSLDC staff to facilitate.
Mr. Belloli agreed to organize meetings and do an agenda, but he will not drive the agenda, he said.
He asked forum members, and groups not at the table, to get back to him or Judy Dyda, Manager of Community Planning at the SSLDC, by October 24 with the name(s) of their representative to the revision process.
The next forum meeting will be on November 14.