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DA closes Levelz bar in South Side of Pittsburgh because of violent incidents

| Friday, Aug. 2, 2013, 2:51 p.m.

The Allegheny County District Attorney's Office on Friday shut down a South Side bar in which a man is accused of stabbing two people.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala said the stabbing last weekend at Levelz Sports Lounge on East Carson Street was one in a “long list” of incidents in the past 18 months, including a brawl in October during which police were forced to use pepper spray.

Zappala spokesman Mike Manko said a meeting with the bar's owners, in an effort to avoid court action, “was not productive.”

Pittsburgh police responded to 33 criminal incidents since January 2011, according to a petition by the district attorney's office to close the bar. Most of the incidents occurred after midnight and involved drunken patrons.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board cited the bar for violations five times since February 2012, issuing fines totaling $9,050.

“The owners of the bar, their employees, and their patrons are responsible for this violence including fighting, assaults and other boisterous conduct and vulgar language,” the petition states.

Levelz owners Mark Heuer, Joseph Molinaro, David Pietrantoni and Drew Ziccardi could not be reached.

Their attorney, Charles Caputo, said the bar was cited for minor offenses such as noise violations and the owners were good stewards until the stabbing.

“It's such a highly and heavily regulated industry that once you're put under the microscope, when all the eyes are on you, you tend to get cited for things that other bars are not,” Caputo said.

He plans to discuss with Zappala's office what his clients must do in order to reopen, at least until an Aug. 16 hearing to decide whether the bar should permanently close.

“We may be able to work something out between now and the 16th, and if not, then we'll let the judge decide.”

Councilman Bruce Kraus praised Zappala for taking nuisance bars seriously and said the bar's closure “sends a clear message” to liquor license owners.

“Anyone who chooses the responsibility of owning an alcohol license, you have to manage it in a lawful and responsible manner, and if you choose not to do so, steps will be taken to make certain you are not operating in the city,” Kraus said.

Manko said his office has been formulating a plan to deal with the bar since July 27, when police charged Manuel Carde Freiria, 41, of the South Side with stabbing an off-duty Levelz employee and a man who tried to intervene.

Freiria, charged with aggravated assault, attempted homicide, reckless endangerment and simple assault, was jailed on $1 million bail.

Adam Brandolph is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-391-0927 or abrandolph@tribweb.com.

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