McKeesport Zoning Board denies gentlemen's club occupancy permit
McKeesport's zoning board has denied Birdseye Enterprises LLC's appeal for an occupancy permit to open the proposed Saints and Sinners gentlemen's club.
The board conducted a hearing on June 30 to consider building inspector Chris House's February denial of the occupancy permit. House's decision was based on Birdseye's application for a proposed eating and drinking establishment, while advertisements and word-of-mouth indicated plans to open a gentlemen's club with female dancers.
Zoning board chairman James Haughey said the board's decision was not based on the nature of the proposed business, but rather the disclosure involved in the application process.
“It was procedural,” Haughey said. “They applied for a restaurant/bar and were not planning to open a restaurant/bar.”
Attorney Ryan Tutera, solicitor for the zoning board, said the board's decision is not an attempt to regulate a particular type of business. It rather addresses the application's procedural defects.
“The opinion is straightforward,” Tutera said of the legal decision he prepared and provided to Birdseye's attorney Brad Sommer on Thursday. “They lied on their application. They made some material misstatements of fact.”
Just as Tutera explained during the June zoning hearing, he said Birdseye's business plan was unclear.
“If you look at all the exhibits that we stipulated to, they said different things to different bodies,” Tutera said. “It proves what we've been saying all along. They've been trying to circumvent the system. They should have applied for a variance all along.”
When House denied Scott Birdseye's application for an occupancy permit in February, he suggested that Birdseye apply for a variance to operate a gentlemen's club, as advertised, and instead the application was altered to reflect a proposed eating and drinking establishment.
A letter from Sommer indicated there were no plans to apply for a state Liquor Control Board alcohol sales license or an Allegheny County Health Department food sales permit.
“We heard about pre-packaged foods, and I want to be clear that we are talking about vending machine items, which clearly is not a restaurant or bar by the literal definition stated in our zoning ordinance,” House testified in June.
Because Birdseye Enterprises LLC was directed to apply for a variance and chose another route, Tutera said the application process was muddied.
“The Board was ready and willing to afford the Applicant due process,” the legal opinion states. “However, the Applicant decided to withdraw his initial application and submit an entirely new application with a conjured business purpose.”
In June, Sommer testified that the business model for Saints and Sinners, which was planned for operation in the former Chick's Grill at 3711 Walnut St., had changed several times since it first was proposed in November 2013. He said Birdseye Enterprises had “gone to great lengths” to cooperate with city officials, including House, Mayor Michael Cherepko and Solicitor J. Jason Elash, on following protocol for opening a new business prior to taking the matter to Allegheny County Common Pleas Court. Judge Joseph James dismissed the case in June because of the issue pending before McKeesport's zoning board.
The proposed business was subject to months of public scrutiny, including protests and prayer services, in which area residents voiced their desire to keep Saints and Sinners out of McKeesport's Christy Park neighborhood.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956.
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.
- New traffic lights to be installed near McKeesport’s Jerome Bridge
- McKeesport prepares for Relay For Life
- Student ‘geek squad’ to help train Steel Valley classmates on iPads
- Mifflin Road project is on schedule, within budget
- Local residents reminisce about Glassport pool
- Mon Yough school districts, nonprofits getting by for now with no state budget
- Homestead summit addresses ways to help inmates transition after prison
- Homestead Cemetery board files for bankruptcy
- More work to begin on Homestead-Duquesne Road
- Golf outing wraps up successful Invitational
- Steel Valley rejects bids, says restrooms will be constructed in-house