Anti-strip club protesters target Tri-Star Ford
Tri-Star Ford employees believe they are caught in the middle of a growing dispute between a would-be strip club operation and churches they attend in the McKeesport area.
“We all live here, work here and go to church here,” Tri-Star Ford general manager Guy Lettieri said after meeting on Friday morning with protesters from the McKeesport Ministerium.
Members of churches in the ministerium went to Tri-Star Ford to start a vigil of prayer and protest against a strip club Scott Birdseye of Irwin wants to locate half a mile away at the old Chick's Grill.
On Friday, the more than 40 Tri-Star Ford employees expressed their opposition to Birdseye's plan in a quarter-page ad in The Daily News.
They sought to distinguish Tri-Star Ford from Tri-Star Holdings Ltd., a real estate entity with properties across Western Pennsylvania, including buildings leased to Tri-Star dealerships.
“Tri-Star Ford of McKeesport is a completely separate entity and is not under the ownership of Tri-Star Holdings,” the ad read.
According to Allegheny County real estate records, Tri-Star Holdings Ltd. owns the building leased by Tri-Star Ford as well as the former Chick's Grill, also known as Tube City Plaza, at 3711 Walnut St.
It's at the Walnut Street location Birdseye seeks to start his Saints and Sinners Gentlemen's Club.
“We're here to be good corporate citizens and represent the community well,” Tri-Star Ford vice president Jack Bartko said.
The ad said Tri-Star Ford employees “do not support this effort (by Birdseye) nor do they want to be associated in any way with this type of business.”
Kevin Sergent is a principal in both the eight Tri-Star Motors dealerships including Tri-Star Ford and Tri-Star Holdings Ltd., though there are different investors with Sergent in each venture.
“We've already had prayer up there at the door,” the Rev. Earlene Coleman of Bethlehem Baptist Church said, confirming the ministerium group met with Lettieri and Bartko.
Shortly thereafter the ministerium representatives set up shop between the Tri-Star lot and a Port Authority park-and-ride lot.
Coleman had a sign touting Cherepko's “message campaign” that emphasizes “respect, hope, love and dignity.”
Other signs said, “We love saints and sinners but say no to strip clubs.”
Some noted the irony of the expression “saints and sinners,” which called to mind the 16th century German reformer the Rev. Martin Luther's opinion that a Christian is both a saint and a sinner.
There were more contemporary concerns, such as those about youngsters going to a skating rink along Eden Park Boulevard, not far from the Chick's Grill location.
“Look at the proximity, and there will be over 100 kids there,” said Frank Francis, a member of St. Paul AME Church in McKeesport.
“You can't wait for police to say a child has been snatched going to that skating rink,” Coleman said.
Another protester reiterated a suggestion made at Monday's town hall meeting hosted by the ministerium, about taking pictures of those going to the strip club.
“There is some man who is going there who does not want to be seen,” said Deacon Brent Robertson from Bethlehem Baptist Church.
Birdseye planned to open last week but didn't after Mayor Michael Cherepko promised to shut it down because it did not have required city and state permits.
Birdseye's strip club plan has been touted on a Facebook page that as of Friday had 143 “likes.”
The last posting on that page, dated Feb. 15, was not specific about a new opening date though it expressed a hope “to open in the next week or so.”
Bartko and Lettieri confirmed that Sergent has had conversations with Cherepko about the issue. Cherepko said he has met with Birdseye, too.
“We're trying to get things straight with the city,” Birdseye insisted, but acknowledged the effort has been “slow.”
Birdseye declined comment about the protest and referred other questions to his attorney Brad Sommer who was unavailable at presstime.
Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKeesport Area first-grader brings toy gun on school bus
- White Oak moves forward on community center
- Liberty hires 2 part-time police officers, honors another
- County investigators determine fatal McKeesport fire started in living room
- Pitt students clean up Mon Valley neighborhoods for annual service day
- North Versailles Township commissioner opposes closing Green Valley Primary School
- Indonesian visitors explore learning methods at Steel Valley
- Duquesne, county housing authority OK Orchard Park development
- McKeesport babies, mom OK after home birth
- Owners hope carousel will bring fresh audience to Century III Mall
- Accident at Port Vue crossing delays trains