South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

By David Assad
Contributing Writer 

City official explains new bar legislation to S.S. businesspeople

 


Tom Halloran from the Department of Economic and Community Development in Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Office spoke to the members of the South Side Chamber of Commerce May 31 about the amended a bar-limitation bill recently approved by the City Planning Commission.

The amended proposal, initiated by Councilman Jeff Koch of Arlington, is intended to keep new bars from opening on the South Side or at the very least, keep a tight rein on newly created bars which must adhere to a very strict standard. New establishments will have to show that their patrons won't take residents' parking spaces, and that they won't have a detrimental impact on nearby properties through increased noise and vehicular traffic.

The legislation is meant to keep things from reaching high concentrations of bars found in the 1700 block of East Carson Street.

The revised legislation would affect Local Neighborhood Commercial (LNC) districts in the city of 2 million square feet or greater. They will be permitted to have the equivalent of one liquor license per 50,000 square feet. The only LNC districts in the city that meet the criteria are the South Side's Carson Street business corridor as well as the Lawrenceville and Bloomfield-Garfield-Friendship neighborhoods in other parts of the city.

Once that saturation point is reached, applicants who want to open an establishment with a liquor license must seek a conditional use, which requires going through an approval process with both the Planning Commission and City Council.

Under the legislation, the South Side's Carson corridor already has 57 bars and restaurants with liquor licenses and the limit will be 53 using the formula used for the proposed ordinance. Lawrenceville and Friendship have limits of about 40 to 45 bars, but both are well under that with each having less than 20 bars and/or restaurants.

Mr. Halloran testified in support of the legislation before the Planning Commission. Community representatives from Lawrenceville and Bloomfield-Garfield-Friendship also spoke in support of the proposed ordinance that must still get City Council approval which will include a public hearing in council chambers.

Councilmen Koch's original legislation, that was rejected by the Planning Commission shortly after a hearing in January, called for no new liquor licensed bars city-wide if proposed at a location within 150 feet of two existing bars.

This proposal was viewed as a detriment to several LNC districts trying to revitalize their respective neighborhoods such as on the North Side and the West End which prompted Mr. Koch's revised plan.

Mr. Halloran said the new proposal will help to “preserve and protect” the residential character of the LNC districts while making sure that the “balance” is not “thrown out of kilter” by the existence of too many bars which could pose a hazard for public health and safety.

Mr. Halloran said the new ordinance does not mean the end of additional bars in South Side. However, he noted that the burden of proof falls on the applicant who applies for a conditional-use permit.

“It's different, more stringent procedure [than what previous bars had to meet],” Mr. Halloran said. “It's a tighter standard. Both City Council and the Planning Commission would have to grant approval [for the conditional-use] permit.”

Bruce Kraus, the recent primary winner as the Democratic candidate for City Council District 3, voiced skepticism over whether the ordinance would have any enforcement power behind it.

Mr. Kraus said the city has not enforced many of its ordinances for years (because of a lack of manpower and funding).

“Why is this any different?” Mr. Kraus asked.

South Side real estate business owner Don Carlson (Carlson & McGinley Real Estate) also voiced concern about the proposed bar-limitation bill. He questioned the necessity for such a law.

He said all the arguments for this legislation seem to be wrong, such as the need for it in order to promote more business in the South Side other than the bar business.

“This is just a knee-jerk reaction by some people who yelled the loudest,” said Mr. Carlson, noting he was not asked for his opinion about the proposed law, nor were about “a dozen” of his business colleagues who also disagree with the law.

“I don't think the Mayor's Office talked to anyone outside of the [complaining] group,” Mr. Carlson said. “Your arguments [which favor the legislation] are wrong.”

 

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