ShareThis Page

James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy at risk of losing license

| Thursday, July 14, 2016, 11:40 p.m.
The James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy in the North Side.
The James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy in the North Side.

Amid the Deutschtown Music Festival last week, James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy had some unexpected guests: officers from the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

Someone had called in a noise complaint against the North Side restaurant and music venue — its second in nine months — forcing management to shut down the music. Now, James Street Gastropub, a staple of the Pittsburgh jazz scene, is at risk of losing its liquor license.

To meet state Liquior Control laws, the tavern has to prevent noise from leaving the pre-World War II building by Sept. 1, a complicated and costly task, said Kevin Saftner, 30, general manager and booking agent at James Street. He has set up a page on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to help raise the $30,000 required to soundproof the space. A “Silent Disco” event is planned July 23.

“The only way we can solve this is by being good neighbors,” Saftner said. He took over the bar in 2011 and said he has worked to bring a diverse array of people to the space.

“We have a drag brunch a couple of times a month, burlesque shows; we host church groups too,” he said, adding, “They're always on different nights.”

The noise complaint during the music festival came as a surprise, Saftner, bar patrons and some neighbors said Thursday.

“I can actually feel the music through my walls,” said Edward Heal, 64, owner of the home on Foreland Street next to James Street Gastropub. “But I don't mind it at all.”

Heal has owned the house for 12 years and has used it as an office for his small advertising business. He started living there full time last year. Aside from smokers who throw their cigarettes on the sidewalk outside his house, Heal — a jazz fan — said that the bar and music venue has been a good neighbor.

“An operating business is better than a shuttered business,” Heal said. “This neighborhood needs more jobs.”

Heal added that ambulances and medical helicopters traveling to and from Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side make much more noise.

Tony Spearman, 63, lives in an apartment down the street from the James Street Gastrobpub and works at a church in the area.

“The only problem is parking,” he said. “As far as noise goes, that place is fine,” adding that James Street isn't more raucous than other area venues.

In the past three years, James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy has received two other citations from state Liquor Control Enforcement: one in 2014 for failing to post a “No Smoking” sign inside the bar, and one in 2015 for excessive noise.

James Street Gastropub is “a good operator,” said Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, a community development organization. “James Street is making a lot of efforts to resolve this, and I applaud them for that.”.

Max Siegelbaum is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5803 or msiegelbaum@tribweb.com.

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.