Taxi block, more police headed to South Side in time for St. Patrick's Day
By Bob Bauder and Aaron Aupperlee
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014, 12:06 p.m.
Pittsburgh officials hope rowdy behavior in the South Side will subside in the spring when the nightlife hub gets a taxi and valet-only block, and more police officers.
City Council on Wednesday preliminarily approved retaining Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Responsible Hospitality Institute for a third year as a consultant working to make the South Side safer for revelers. The city would pay RHI $100,000.
“It's a very strong effort to lessen negative impact,” said Mayor Bill Peduto. “We're not just trying to address it with SWAT or police blitz-type efforts.”
The city paid RHI $200,000 during the past two years to work with police, universities, city administrators and business owners to improve public safety and the quality of life in several neighborhoods. South Side residents reported bargoers using sidewalks and yards as toilets.
Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said her initial reservations about hiring RHI have not changed.
“I think the most successful thing they've done is bring a large group of people together who should have been cooperating anyway,” she said.
Councilman Bruce Kraus, who lobbied for the consultant two years ago and whose district includes the South Side, said the third year will be one of implementing ideas.
By St. Patrick's Day, cabs will queue on one side of the 1700 block of E. Carson Street as valet services operate on the other side, said RHI President Jim Peters.
By April, bars and restaurants will chip in as much as $250,000 to offset the cost of police patrols, Peters said. The plan pairs off-duty officers paid by bars and restaurants with on-duty officers. Public Safety Director Mike Huss nixed the plan when it was proposed last April but later agreed to let it move forward.
“We're more than happy to see that progress is being made in terms of security, safety and transportation,” said Mike Papariella, president of the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association.
About 160 establishments in the South Side are licensed to serve alcohol.
The institute hopes to start training the city's nighttime economy manager, a new $51,000 position in the mayor's office, by May. The job is unfilled.
Civic leaders in Shadyside, Bloomfield, Downtown and Lawrenceville have worked with RHI.
“We have looked at the South Side and have talked to business owners there to see how can we grow our nighttime economy while standing in front of some of the issues the South Side has had,” said Lauren Byrne, executive director of Lawrenceville United.
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