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Heyl: Whim nightclub site's jinx could vex residents in Pittsburgh

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Thursday, June 26, 2014, 10:57 p.m.

Waging war against the inevitable is a losing battle.

So the owners of Whim nightclub in Station Square should halt the legal attempt to prolong its existence. Even if they succeed, the dance nearly is over for one of the largest places to get your groove on in Pittsburgh.

Whim sued to prevent Forest City Enterprises, which owns Station Square, from terminating the club's lease before its expiration next year. Whim is the only business remaining in Station Square's East Warehouse, which Forest City wants to raze for parking and perhaps apartments.

Forest City has a lawsuit pending against Whim, but details of the legal tête-à-tête aren't relevant. What's important is that both sides are wasting their money on attorneys' fees.

No matter who prevails, Whim is doomed.

No business has experienced long-term success in the 11,000 square feet the nightclub occupies. The property either is jinxed, or its enormous size frequently generates bankruptcy-inducing utility bills.

For a quarter-century, can't-miss concepts have missed in the cavernous surroundings. Take the Pittsburgh Sports Garden, which opened in 1989 and inaugurated the site's impressive string of failures.

How could a joint with a name like that fail in this city? That's akin to a Catholic-themed bistro going belly up at the Vatican.

After the sports bar, the space housed another sports bar: Woodson's All-Star Grille, named for Steelers cornerback Rod Woodson. It opened in 1995 and might have enjoyed success had Woodson not left the team after the 1996 season.

Woodson's then had about as much drawing power as the Pittsburgh Sports Garden. It went under in 1999, and the site was vacant for about two years until it was extensively renovated and reopened as — you guessed it — a sports bar.

Woodson's Steelers motif was ditched in favor of the Canadian maple leaf when the place became the first American franchise of Ontario-based Philthy McNasty's. But even though McNasty's catered to American tastes, rather than cuisine favored by Saskatchewan fur traders, McNasty's lasted for barely two years.

The next operators in the space wisely realized a sports theme probably wouldn't work. Various concepts were considered, including, I believe, a tiki bar, a business-themed club, complete with a stock market ticker, and a hybrid establishment attempting to bring together the wildly divergent karaoke and motocross crowds.

In the end, they settled for Margarita Mama's, a Mexican joint that was about as well-received as a linoleum burrito.

Now it's Whim, which, at best, has a year left before it meets the wrecking ball. Who can blame Forest City for wanting to put out of its misery a building with such a wretched record? But the developer should be wary about building an apartment complex on the property.

Tenant turnover might be a problem.

Eric Heyl is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He canbe reached at 412-320-7857 or

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