Munhall shuts down strip club
Munhall council voted 6-0 on Wednesday night to revoke the adult dancing occupancy permit from Club Pink during a public hearing on whether the strip club violated the borough's adult entertainment ordinance.
Council president Joe Ballas was absent.
Club Pink's attorney David Toal said the business likely will appeal the decision.
“We might be in federal court or we might be in state courts,” he said.
Club Pink co-owners Bob Marino and John Posteraro, who attended the hearing, declined comment.
The March 3 fatal shooting of John Sumpter IV, 32, of Pittsburgh near the club sparked concerns among Munhall officials and residents that the establishment at 936 E. Eighth Ave. doesn't conform to borough ordinances and should be shut down. Paul Barone, 23, of Munhall, is charged with homicide and a weapons violation in Sumpter's murder.
“This club just happened to be adjacent to where a murder occurred,” Toal said. “It didn't happen on the property. It occurred in a public right-of-way. Yes, the folks may have been customers, but the club had nothing to do with it. It's very unfortunate.”
Munhall police Chief Pat Campbell said businesses are responsible for patrons within 500 feet of their property.
There was a non-fatal shooting at Club Pink on Aug. 12 inside the business.
Toal said in that incident, someone apparently sneaked a gun into the club and shot another person who owed him money.
“I don't know if that has anything to do with the club,” he said. “I don't know that it's routine club activity or resulting from club activity.”
In Toal's opening statement on Wednesday night, he said the adult entertainment ordinance is a zoning provision that comes under the jurisdiction of Munhall Zoning Hearing Board, not council.
“We also believe this matter is governed by a consent decree, which the borough did agree to in 2007,” he said.
Campbell said there have been 42 police calls at and in the vicinity of Club Pink since it opened on Aug. 30, 2011. He said the calls included two drug possession, one DUI, one assault, two disorderly conduct, five EMS calls, one harassment, one vehicle lockout, one theft, one unwanted person, eight traffic stops, one disabled vehicle, four disturbances, one criminal mischief and one firearm-related complaint.
Toal asked Campbell if the amount of calls was “out-of-the-ordinary for commercial establishments.”
“I would say it's pretty high,” the police chief responded. “We haven't had anybody shot in any of our other bars.”
Club Pink customers pay a $20 cover fee to enter the strip club to experience entertainment provided by female dancers.
Campbell testified about conversations with Marino and Posteraro during a March 5 meeting with the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office, a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board enforcement officer, Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar and borough Solicitor Greg Evashavik.
He said the owners advised him 90 percent of the time the dancers wear G-strings and some type of top such as a bra. Campbell said there is no contact between the dancers and customers on the floor and on the stage.
“When on stage, the dancers remove their tops to show their chest area is completely nude,” he said. “And 90 percent of the time, the dancers keep their bottoms on while on stage.”
Campbell said the owners indicated that during lap dances in a separate room the customer is permitted to touch the dancer's arms, legs, back and butt, and it's up to the dancer if she wants to allow the patron to touch her bare breasts.
The police chief said the dancers' conduct and interaction with customers is a violation of the borough's adult entertainment ordinance.
The club has 15 dancers and five security guards, who use a wand metal detector on every customer and pat them down if the wand activates.
Campbell said club owners said the March 3 shooting occurred when a customer went to his car to get a weapon.
The police chief said the club's head of security, Darrick Maad, testified that great efforts are taken to make sure no weapons are brought into the club.
He said Club Pink serves alcohol to customers at no charge. Patrons also can bring their own alcohol, he said.
“After the club is closed, all the alcohol is locked in a cabinet that is kept on the premises,” Campbell said.
Under state law, the chief said, bottle clubs are not allowed to store alcohol on the premises after the operation is closed.
“I have a heck of a lot of questions when it comes to some of these violations,” Bodnar said. “There's no question in my mind the bar is a nuisance and it should be shut down 100 percent. Period.”
He said Munhall has never experienced what it has gone through in the past couple years with the strip club.
Residents also were given an opportunity to speak.
“Since the opening of the club, we've experienced increased violence,” Munn Street resident Scott Gelston said. “The community is fearful for our families.”
He said club patrons have been observed urinating in the street and ripping items off fences and throwing them in the street.
“Before this club opened, it had been several bars,” Gelston said, “none of which have brought this kind of trouble to our doors and kept us up at night thinking of what will happen.”
“Half of the people leaving that area run on the streets up through our yards,” Hays Lane resident Mark Olsavicky said. “That's uncalled for.”
Olsavicky and Gelston's wife Renee presented council with two petitions containing a total of 195 signatures asking that Club Pink be closed.
Hall Street resident Robert Kupec said his house is within 100 feet of the strip club. He said the car parked behind his was hit by a stray bullet after the March 3 shooting.
“There's been a bar in that building for over 60 years before Club Pink moved in,” Kupec said. “All those years, we never had anything like this happen.”
Union Street resident Brian Davis thanked Bodnar and council for “putting your foot down” to close the club.
“We think we did the right thing,” council vice president Rob Falce said. “We think it became a nuisance. The people who live down there are having a hard time living there under those conditions.”
“I want everybody to know we want the community to be safe,” Councilwoman Dana Ditillo said. “We'll stick behind this 100 percent.”
Councilmen Harvey Inglis and Bernie Shields said the residents' comments about never having a problem with other bars in that building resonated with them.
“We did what we thought was right,” Councilman Rich Votedian said.
“They had violated the ordinance numerous times by their own testimony,” Councilman Dan Lloyd said.
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.