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Jeannette bar activity sent to district attorney for review

Renatta Signorini
| Sunday, June 18, 2017, 11:00 p.m.
Punch and Junior's bar along Clay Ave. in Jeannette, as seen on Friday, June 16, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Punch and Junior's bar along Clay Ave. in Jeannette, as seen on Friday, June 16, 2017.
Punch and Junior's bar along Clay Ave. in Jeannette, as seen on Friday, June 16, 2017.
Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Punch and Junior's bar along Clay Ave. in Jeannette, as seen on Friday, June 16, 2017.

Resident and business complaints about a Jeannette bar and incidents there involving police have been forwarded to the district attorney for review.

“We're reviewing it for the purpose of filing a nuisance bar complaint,” District Attorney John Peck said Friday.

Punch & Jr's was a topic of complaint to Jeannette council last week as a resident and restaurant owner both asked for help in shutting it down. Police Sgt. Donald Johnston said he has been in touch with Peck numerous times “to assist us in closing that bar down.”

“We are aware of that problem down there,” he said. “It's a major problem for us as a police department to have to deal with those idiots down there.”

City officials said police sometimes are called to the Clay Avenue tavern for disturbances, crowds of people and drug activity in the area.

“It's a safety issue,” said resident Kathie Tanyer. “Nobody's going to move into our city until they feel safe.” But Jason Walczuk said measures put in place to deter potential problems seem to have worked. He has been president of the Punch & Jr's corporation since 2009.

“There was some problems in the past, but it's mostly all cleaned up,” he said, adding that no one under 25 is permitted in the bar and security personnel use metal detectors on patrons after 9 p.m.

He said he can't control crowds that sometimes gather on Clay Avenue in front of the bar, many of whom “aren't even our customers.”

It's frustrating for him to see Punch & Jr's get a bad rap.

“It's not an out-of-control place,” he said. “It's not like there's anything going on there that doesn't happen at any bar.”

Jon Scalzitti, owner of nearby Bella Mimi's, said he has started using his own money to pay the restaurant's bills because business is down.

“My business has dropped 50 percent since the last murder,” he said, referring to a fatal shooting between two men on Clay Avenue that occurred in front of the St. Vincent dePaul store, next door to Punch & Jr's.

There is no indication in a police affidavit that the shooting had anything to do with Punch & Jr's.

Police believe Darelle Tolbert-McGhee, 28, of Verona, fatally shot Michael V. Wilson, 32, of West Mifflin, after the pair argued at a nearby dollar store. A preliminary hearing is scheduled this week.

Tanyer and Scalzitti asked for help from the city, but manager Michael Nestico said city officials know little about any investigation that may be under way.

“The department is extremely aware of this situation. It's been turned over to departments and entities that are much higher and have much higher authority than the police department,” Nestico said. “Some of it is beyond the scope of the City of Jeannette authority.”

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374, or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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