South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By Margaret Smyka
Contributing Writer 

South Side has to look toward alternative ways to deal with growing bar problems

 


The February 28 town hall meeting at the Market House which drew about 300 people to discuss the proliferation of bars in the South Side was attended by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Councilman Jeff Koch, police officials, and representatives of various city agencies.

That meeting, or “getting everyone at the table,” is a good example of a first step in the planning, managing, and policing of hospitality zones, said Megan Stearman, manager of business development for the South Side Local Development Co.

East Carson Street is considered a hospitality district, she said, although it is not defined as such.  But given its number of liquor licenses and music venues it has evolved into one with a regional draw. 

“It is not your regular neighborhood commercial district,” said Ms. Stearman.

In December, 2006, she attended a conference in Chicago sponsored by the non-profit Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI), whose mission is to promote legal and social awareness programs for the hospitality industry.

Discussed at the conference were different strategies for policing and mitigating quality-of-life issues when you have a nearby entertainment area.

One quality-of-life strategy is holding late night tours for city officials “to see the kind of policies we really need,” she said.

Another proven strategy in hospitality zones throughout the U.S. and Canada is a smoking ban.   However, that raises noise levels as more people step outside to smoke.  In New York City, it led to an increase in the desire to build rooftop decks for businesses.

Additional strategies include property task force, nightlife ordinance, economic incentives, outer rim policing, closing agreement for residential sales, neighborhood protection ordinance, and good neighbor handbook.

Also needed are more trash cans for litter, and patron education.  The latter is necessary, she said, as bars are over-serving, resulting in drunks and subsequent public urination,  fighting, vandalism, etc.

Such strategies are critical to mitigating the impact of entertainment establishments on quality-of-life issues for residents, said Toni Gorenc, president of the board of the SSLDC.

“There have been misunderstandings in the community regarding comments and discussion by staff and representatives of the South Side Local Development Company about an entertainment zone for East Carson Street,” she said.

“The South Side Local Development Company does not support, endorse or wish to see East Carson Street become more of an entertainment district or zone.

“However, given the current number of existing entertainment establishments, it is essential that we take every necessary step to mitigate their impact on quality-of-life issues for our residents.

“While we agree that zoning should play a role in this issue, we must also implement additional strategies, including enforcement, enhanced services such as trash collection, and the promotion of responsible hospitality behaviors.

“As residents and business owners we have an obligation and a responsibility to protect our wonderful neighborhood.”

In Chicago, the Hospitality Resource Partnership (HRP) serves as an informal alliance among hospitality, safety, development, and community organizations working together to create safe and vibrant places for people to socialize. 

One of its objectives is to orient new and current hospitality businesses to rules, regulations, and community standards.   It also seeks to intervene with “at-risk” hospitality businesses by a peer-to-peer consultation prior to increased enforcement and administrative action.

HRP is administered by RHI, which promotes cooperation among those involved in hospitality, safety, and community development groups.

The RHI works with all involved parties to create a hospitality resource panel comprised of representatives of the hospitality industry, public safety, development community, residents, and city agencies.

“The RHI forms a link between all these groups in a non-adversarial way for the betterment of the neighborhood,” said Ms. Stearman. “Everybody is at the table at one time.”

This is a possibility for Carson Street, she said, as the main guiding principles are communication and collaboration.

RHI goes into cities and communities and helps to facilitate cooperation and consensus building among stakeholders. Besides Chicago, RHI is working with San Diego, Calif .; Seattle, Wash .; Springfield, Miss .; Windsor, Ont .; Phoenix, Ariz .; Norfolk, Va .; and Boulder, Colo.

As to South Side, Ms. Stearman said a 24/7 city requires 24/7 services.  Weekends should be viewed as a “special event in the South Side” she said.

Enforcement is the key, she said. “We have a need for better enforcement in the South Side.”

As to what South Side can do immediately, she cited: litter control, establish a local hospitality resource panel, collaborate with Zone 3 police, and advocate for city and state policy changes.

Right now, the first step is to get everyone at the table.

The February 28 town hall meeting was a good example of what that might look like as it included representatives of various city agencies.

“We would be formalizing that,” she said.

 

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