DA's office asked to assist with strip club nuisance probe in Munhall
A public hearing to gather testimony to determine whether Club Pink is a nuisance bar and if it violates a borough ordinance on adult entertainment is slated for March 20 at 6 p.m. in Munhall council chambers.
The homicide of John Sumpter IV, 32, of Pittsburgh has sparked concern among borough officials about alleged ongoing problems with the strip club along E. Eighth Avenue.
Paul Barone, 23, of Munhall is charged with fatally shooting Sumpter on Sunday at approximately 4 a.m. outside the club in the 900 block of E. Eighth Avenue.
Sumpter died from gunshots to his head and right extremities.
Police said at least three people were at the scene, but Barone is on surveillance footage as the person who shot Sumpter in his vehicle.
Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar asked the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office to assist in investigating whether the club is a nuisance.
“The mayor has asked us to get involved and we in turn have asked Munhall to send over all their police reports involving that club,” said Mike Manko, spokesman for county District Attorney Stephen Zappala.
Munhall Councilman Dan Lloyd has been vocal about his desire for Club Pink to be shut down.
“I don't like people getting killed in our neighborhood,” he said. “I asked the mayor to do everything in his power. I believe he has emergency powers to shut the club down for seven days.”
Lloyd said that's how he interprets the borough code, however, the solicitor might see it differently.
Bodnar said Lloyd hasn't talked to him about shutting down the club and he only learned about Lloyd's request through the media.
Lloyd agreed that he hasn't talked directly to the mayor, but said, “I think we're on the same page.”
“Legally I'm not sure we can shut it down as a nuisance,” Bodnar said. “The DA can do it immediately. The borough has to call a meeting and then it's up to council to determine what to do.”
He continued, “As far as I'm concerned, it is a nuisance. But I want to go by the law.”
Bodnar said he only can shut down an establishment immediately if an emergency situation occurs, such as a riot. He said there's no emergency because the homicide already happened.
Club Pink co-owner Bob Marino said he has been doing everything possible to cooperate and uphold the law.
“When I took the club over a year and a half ago, I had nothing but problems,” he said. “All I tried to do was clean it up.”
Marino said the shooting occurred on the street between two other businesses, and not on his property.
“As far as the mayor saying we're attracting the wrong people, the shooter was from Munhall,” he said. “That's right in his borough. You're letting the people live there. You can't pick and choose who your residents are.”
Bodnar said most of the problems the borough has had regarding the club are due to people from other areas.
“I didn't know we ran ZIP codes of people who come to the door,” Lloyd said. “It's not like the place is incident-free. Over the past couple months, we've had numerous incidents there.”
Marino said Lloyd is the strip club's insurance agent.
“So what?” Lloyd responded. “That's what I do for a living. I insure the guy next door who took seven bullets in his truck.”
Club Pink was the scene of a shooting on Aug. 12 when a man was wounded in the leg inside the building.
Marino said detectives have the shooter on tape shooting the victim and no arrests have been made.
“That shooter still tries to get in my bar,” he said. “That guy should be locked up. I'm really frustrated about this. Everybody is trying to pass the buck. If you're letting them out on the street, then they can go where they want.”
As far as Marino's comments on the Aug. 12 shooting case, county Homicide Lt. Andrew Shurman said the criminal justice system requires the victim to testify in court against their assailant.
“Absent that, we are hard-pressed to make a case,” he said.
Marino said he is meeting with the district attorney's office on Tuesday about his strip club.
“I'll do everything I can to cooperate,” he said. “I'll hire security to walk the parking lot. I'll hire a valet service to park the cars.”
Marino also will be able to present his case to borough officials on March 20.
Council vice president Rob Falce said the hearing will give each side a chance to present their case.
“I know the chief and the mayor have been on top of this since Sunday morning,” council president Joe Ballas said.
He said they started the ball rolling by contacting the borough solicitor regarding what Munhall can legally do about the club.
Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or firstname.lastname@example.org.