Neighbors concerned with increase in problems surrounding Bradish St. bar
Councilman Bruce Kraus held a "town hall" meeting with his constituents over a quality of life issue for the second time in two weeks at the South Side Market House on June 16.
The previous matter was about unleashed dogs on 12th Street. Last week's issue moved over a block to 11th Street where residents unleashed their frustration over Bar 11, at the corner of Bradish and 11th streets.
The residents claim that it is bad enough that they have to put up with parking problems, noise at late hours, excessive littering as well as public urination on occasion. However, what irritates them the most is the attitude of the bar management and public officials. Some of the residents at the meeting say they have been told that if they don't like living near Bar 11 and its densely populated urban setting, then they should move, perhaps to the suburbs.
But the residents say they have just as much right to live in a peaceful neighborhood as anyone living in the suburbs.
A woman who said she has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years is looking to move elsewhere and believes a large percentage of her neighbors are always looking to escape the yelling, swearing and loud music they claim comes from the bar on weekends.
Councilman Kraus said he just wants to make sure the bar management does not show a lack of respect for the neighborhood.
Mr. Kraus circulated a list of crime statistics for 2005, 2006 and 2007, showing the number of reported crime incidents that have taken place within a one-block radius of the bar.
There were an assortment of auto thefts, burglaries, criminal mischief, purse snatchings, etc. listed in the report which covered the three-year period. An average of 20 crime incidents were reported per year, although 2007 had the lowest number of incidents (15) among the three.
"I was surprised at the amount of petty-crime activity that goes on there," Mr. Kraus said.
The bar owner disputes the correlation that his bar has anything to do with the vast majority of the reported crimes in the neighborhood.
He said he has taken several steps to ensure that his business, located in the middle of a residential area, is a good neighbor to the residents.
The owner explained that he always has a Pittsburgh city police detail-officer on to make sure there is no trouble in his establishment. He said they also makes sure that none of his customers takes alcohol outdoors.
He also said his bartenders are trained to monitor when a customer has had too much to drink. When that happens, the bar will no longer serve the inebriated customer. The bar owner also said that his establishment does not sell alcohol at drastically reduced "Happy Hour" rates.
"We don't have drink specials," he said, noting he does not rely on any type of gimmickry to sell large quantities of alcohol to large amounts of customers in a short period of time.
He said he has also installed sound-proof walls so that loud music cannot be heard throughout the neighborhood. He has also made sure that the bar does not become over-crowded. The owner noted that the legal capacity for occupancy in his bar is 125 people, but he makes sure that no more than 80 customers are in the building at one time. He noted that on weekdays there are as few as a half-dozen customers on the premises.
Some of the residents complained that the detail-officers do not do enough to keep the bar from becoming a nuisance while other residents noted that they feel better about the fact that they know there are off-duty police on hand who are doing a good job at keeping the peace.
Two young city officers, who have worked special duty assignments at Bar 11 many times over the past year, both stated at the meeting that they are conscientious and have rarely had customers get out of line.
A young woman who has lived in the neighborhood for the past several years, said she is a regular patron of Bar 11 and believes it is a "clean and safe" environment
Catherine McNeilly, the Zone 3 commander, was at the meeting to mostly listen to what both sides had to say. She briefly stepped in at one point in the meeting to emphasize that the detail officers were still under the Pittsburgh Police jurisdiction when the police work at the bars who pay a certain fee to have the police on at hand at their establishment. Commander McNeilly, recently transferred to Zone 3 commander after serving as Zone 1 commander, emphasized that the police detail officers are still city employees and are not under any special obligation to Bar 11, or any other bar, just because these bars are charged a special fee.
The two law enforcement officials who mostly spoke to the residents and bar management at the meeting included Bar Task Force detective John McBurney and LCB liquor enforcement officer Chuck Rubino. Mr. McBurney is a city employee and Mr. Rubino works for the state.
Mr.McBurney and Mr. Rubino got the bar owner to agree to making sure that give-away items from the bar such as candy necklaces, whistles and bells, are kept to a minimum and that the music volume can not be heard outside of the bar.
The officers noted that they are not out to shut down any bars in the South Side. They do not want to see any bordered-up buildings.
"We're not looking to shut anybody down," Mr. Rubino said. "We're seeking a happy co-existence."