Since attending a Responsible Hospitality Institute Networking Conference in San Francisco in 2008, Councilman Bruce Kraus has been advocating for the City of Pittsburgh to seek RHI's help to manage South Side's nighttime economy.
City council agreed with Mr. Kraus and in December of 2010 and allocated $100,000 to contract with the California based organization to aid in coming up with a plan to manage night life in the city. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl disagreed with the severity of the problem and declined to release the money to pay for the contract, until now.
The nine-month pilot plan will focus on three "entertainment" districts in the city: Downtown, Lawrenceville and South Side. Mayor Ravenstahl calling it a "plan for the future," promised city services will be supporting the community-wide effort.
"I've been passionate about this effort," Councilman Kraus said, noting his trip to the 2008 conference.
In 2009 the councilman released "Inviting, Safe, and Cohesive: A Proposal for the Management of the South Side Using Responsible Hospitality Practices," a study of the South Side night life which also advocated for using practices established by the RHI. The study is available on the councilman's website, http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/district3/.
He said he asked for the contract to be administered through the City Planning department because it should be an overall city plan on how to manage night life, not just a South Side plan.
"Every major city wrestles with the issues," he said and noted "there actually is a solution here."
Stressing the importance of the alcohol serving establishments in the city, the councilman said, "I don't want anyone to think that bars and restaurants won't be part of this."
"We walk the streets…we clean the streets," he said. "The dynamics of South Side is changing. This plan will help."
Jim Peters, president of the Responsibility Institute, began his presentation with a trip down Memory Lane to 1976 when he was 26 years old and working at the Intermission in Shadyside. Following his time in the hospitality business, he then got involved in responsible beverage service training; Eventually leading to the RHI and an international business. In the last decade, RHI has assisted in more than 50 cities throughout the United States and Canada.
Going out in the evenings is how people socialize, he said. How people socialize is what makes one city distinguishable from another.
Mr. Peters said what he brings is the collective knowledge and experience of working in more than 50 cities to create a mechanism to bring it all together to make it work in Pittsburgh.
One goal is to define Pittsburgh as not only the most liveable city, but the most social.
As an example, he said closing time puts crowds of people on the streets all at one time. What's needed is an efficient late night system to get people home. That system may simply need something like an organized system for people to get cabs after leaving the bars and clubs.
In nine months, Mr. Peters said they will be able to release recommendations based on what can be accomplished in the following six months by improving communications and using existing services.
According to RHI materials, recommendations will be made in five key areas: Research, Policy, Education, Compliance and Marketing.
Mr. Kraus emphasized the plan is not about punishment, but about protecting profitability in the entertainment district.