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Red Star in Greensburg to close by month's end

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Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Red Star Agave Grille at the Greensburg Train Station is closing at the end of the month -- hurt by what one of the owners said Wednesday is a loss of parking because of construction of Seton Hill University's Performing Arts Center.

"The decision (to close) was not entirely ours to make," said Ernie Vallozzi, one of two general partners in a group of about a dozen investors that have owned Red Star. Vallozzi, who shares controlling interest in the business with former Latrobe Brewing Co. executive Albert Spinelli, declined further comment about the decision.

The closing of the restaurant, which features a menu of Southwestern food, will result in the loss of 15 to 20 full-time and part-time jobs, said Vallozzi, who also operates a popular Italian restaurant in Hempfield.

Vallozzi said he doesn't know if a successor has been lined up to fill the space, adding that the owners likely would dismantle and remove the brewery equipment.

The Red Star's closing comes at the end of its lease, said Michael Langer, chief executive of The Westmoreland Trust, a nonprofit cultural organization that owns the Train Station and the Palace Theatre in downtown Greensburg. The trust is seeking a replacement for Red Star, but Langer declined further comment.

The restaurant and brew pub opened in the newly renovated Train Station amid much fanfare in October 1998. Vallozzi said the business made a profit every year until it lost access to parking spaces close to the Red Star.

Parking has become limited by the demolition of the former state office building along Harrison Avenue that began in December 2006, followed by construction on Seton Hill's $21 million arts center, which opened last September.

"We really did try to work with him (Vallozzi) for a long time. We felt like we satisfied a number of parking concerns," Greensburg City Administrator Susan Trout said yesterday.

A parking lot across Ehalt Street from the restaurant had been leased to workers in downtown Greensburg prior to the renovation of the Train Station in the late 1990s. Trout said those spaces were not available to lunchtime patrons, but that lot and other nearby parking lots were available to Red Star customers after 5 p.m.

The new Seton Hill arts center has been a draw for other restaurants and taverns in that section of the city, Trout said.

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