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Steel City Grille must close during liquor license appeal

| Thursday, Feb. 28, 2013, 1:31 a.m.
Steel City Grille in Monessen. Jim Ference | The Valley Independent

A Westmoreland County judge Thursday ordered the Steel City Grille in Monessen to cease operations as its owners appeal the state's rejection of a liquor license for 2013.

Common Pleas Judge Richard McCormick granted the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's petition to keep the bar closed during the appeal process.

Normally under such circumstances, bars can continue to serve alcoholic beverages automatically.

In November, the PLCB refused La Vitale Enterprises, owner of the bar at 275 Schoonmaker Ave., renewal of its restaurant liquor license. Monessen police chief Mark Gibson said he expects Westmoreland County Sheriff's department to serve the bar with the order as early as Friday.

Attempts to contact bar owner Larry Vitale were unsuccessful.

McCormick conducted a hearing Tuesday in Greensburg, where several Monessen police officers testified about the bar, including Detective Lt. John Manderino.

Testimony was provided about 10 “incidents of disturbance” since July 2010, including fights, shootings and disorderly operations.

According to court documents, the board said the bar's record “is replete with illegal actives that have either occurred at or immediately adjacent to the licensed premises.”

“With a nuisance bar like the Steel City, we have a thousand reasons why it should cease operations,” said Manderino, adding the police department has fielded more than 100 complaints about the business since 2007.

On Sept. 6, Calvin T. Goggins, 60, of Donora allegedly walked into the Steel City Grille and fired a shot at a patron, but missed. When police arrived, Goggins was semi-conscious outside, covered in blood.

Previously, the Westmoreland County District Attorney's Office pursued two nuisance bar actions in the city, effectively shutting down Billy T's, located at the intersection of Ninth Street and Knox Avenue, and the New Wave Club on Sixth Street. But the owners maintained their liquor licenses.

“It made a difference for the area and changed the whole complexion of the area,” Manderino said of the Ninth Street area after Billy T's was closed.

On Tuesday, McCormick directed both parties to file post-hearing briefs within 20 days on the still-pending appeal by Vitale.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbruni@tribweb.com or 724-684-2635.

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