Controversial Munhall strip club closes
A gentlemen's club in Munhall — closed by the borough following a fatal shooting incident and reopened through a court order earlier this year — has shut its doors for good.
Club Pink co-owner Bob Marino said he closed the adult entertainment business about two weeks ago because of unruly customers and the area being a bad location for his business.
“The bottom line is the customers are coming in there, they can't respect the place,” Marino said. “I've been in the business for 16 years and I have never encountered animals like the type of people that come into that place. It is completely unbelievable.”
Marino said his business partner, John Posteraro, left in April. Marino said he managed the day-to-day operations while Posteraro handled paperwork and finances.
Marino and Posteraro took over the business in September 2011. It was previously known as the Pretty Kitty, located along E. Eighth Avenue near Ravine Street.
Marino said he worked hard trying to clean up the place and establish a respectable business.
“I do not run a bad place,” he said. “I know what I'm doing ... There's no prostitution going on in my club ... There's no drug use going on in my club. I don't play that game. I don't do stuff like that. It took me a year to get the place cleaned up from what it was. I did have police called because I needed help.”
Two shooting incidents in the past two years marred the club's reputation.
A non-fatal shooting occurred inside the club on Aug. 12, 2012. Marino said someone sneaked a gun into the club through a back door and shot someone who owed him money. He said the incident was drug-related and could have happened anywhere the two individuals met.
John Sumpter IV, 32, of Pittsburgh was fatally shot earlier this year on March 3 near the club. That incident sparked concerns among Munhall officials and residents that the establishment did not conform to borough ordinances and should be shut down.
Paul Barone, 23, of Munhall, is charged with homicide, firearms not to be carried without a license and possession of firearms prohibited in connection with Sumpter's murder.
Online court documents indicate Barone was denied bail. A jury trial is scheduled for Oct. 8 at 9 a.m. before Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Jill E. Rangos.
Police Chief Pat Campbell reported in March that the shooting occurred when a customer went to his car to obtain a weapon.
Marino said the shooting took place outside his establishment and he had no control over that situation.
“They do what they want to do,” he said.
Marino said the club's five security guards used wand metal detectors on every customer and would pat them down if the wand activated.
Council unanimously voted on March 20 to revoke the adult dancing occupancy permit from Club Pink during a public hearing.
Council president Joe Ballas was absent.
The club's attorney at the hearing, David Toal, argued the adult entertainment ordinance is a zoning provision that comes under the jurisdiction of the borough's zoning hearing board, not council.
Police Chief Pat Campbell said at the hearing that police responded to 42 police calls in the vicinity of the club since it opened in 2011. Calls included two for drug possession, one for DUI, one for assault, two for disorderly conduct, five EMS calls, and one for harassment and other complaints.
Club owners appealed the borough's decision to Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, where Judge Joseph James ruled the business could reopen.
“Between the customers acting like crazy animals and with what the borough did, there was no business,” Marino said. “I'm done. I just can't to it (any)more ... The borough did not have the power to do what they did and they did it anyway.”
Marino said he regrets not being more vocal about the club and letting his attorney make all the comments.
Both Marino and Posteraro declined to comment at the borough hearing.
Munhall borough officials are pleased that the club has closed.
“I'm very happy about it,” Munhall Mayor Raymond Bodnar said. “It's why we had the meeting. These are people that were coming in from all over town and they were causing all of our problems. I'm glad that they decided to close. This is what we're looking for. I knew it would never work because of what they had there.”
Bodnar said the borough plans to work with the property owner to put in another business.
Council vice president Rob Falce said he learned about the club closure via social media.
“I don't think the borough's going to miss them,” Falce said. “We're looking to build Eighth Avenue and looking to improve the area and welcome businesses to come in that would be an asset to the community.”
Campbell said his night shift officers noticed cars were no longer outside the club and signs no longer displayed the hours of operation.
“I'm kind of glad they closed,” Campbell said. “They didn't make us aware that they were closed. There haven't been many cars there recently ... There were some issues down there with their clientèle.”
Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or firstname.lastname@example.org.