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McKeesport mayor asks churches to postpone strip club protests

| Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, 5:01 a.m.

The McKeesport Ministerium expects to begin protests no later than Friday at Tri-Star Ford, whose real estate affiliate owns a building that's the site of a planned strip club.

Mayor Michael Cherepko requested that the ministerium hold off on protests it planned to conduct on Wednesday.

“The mayor asked us to hold off for one day and we agreed,” said the Rev. Kathy Barnhart, pastor of Beulah Park and Christy Park United Methodist churches in McKeesport.

The ministerium is opposed to Scott Birdseye of Irwin's plans to open Saints & Sinners Gentlemen's Club in a building at 3711 Walnut St. that formerly housed Chick's Grill.

Barnhart said Tri-Star Motors president Kevin Sergent wanted to meet with the mayor.

Tri-Star Motors is a group of eight dealerships in six cities that includes Tri-Star Ford in McKeesport. Additionally, Sergent is a principal in Tri-Star Holdings Ltd., based in Blairsville.

Tri-Star Holdings Ltd. is listed in Allegheny County records as owner of 3711 Walnut as well as the building a half-mile away housing Tri-Star Ford.

The meeting between the mayor and Sergent apparently did not happen, but Cherepko said late in the day that “there have been a couple conversations with Mr. Sergent.”

Barnhart said she received a text from city administrator Matt Gergely saying, “We haven't heard anything from the involved parties.”

Cherepko acknowledged that Gergely has been in contact with the ministerium but said little about any of their conversations, including a meeting with Birdseye.

“We are leaving no stone unturned,” the mayor said. “We are exploring all options and all of our resources out there to prevent the club from opening.”

By presstime, Sergent had not returned calls and Birdseye could not be reached for comment.

Protests may begin on Thursday “if I possibly can get people lined up,” Barnhart said, but would begin “Friday for sure.” She expects to have six to eight people available for two-hour shifts on Friday, Saturday and Monday.

Other efforts have included an ongoing campaign of telephone calls to the Tri-Star Ford showroom.

At a meeting on Monday night, ministerium officials said they have been told by those answering at Tri-Star Ford that they should call Tri-Star's Blairsville operations instead.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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