Recent violence prompts increased police presence around Penn Hills bars
Penn Hills law enforcement is ramping up its presence near two bars along Verona Road where recent bouts of violence have occurred, Police Chief Howard Burton said.
“Our antennas are up now,” Burton said. “It’s usually pretty quiet there — we get typical calls. But now, it seems to have escalated.”
One man was shot around 1 a.m. Feb. 4 at H’s Bar and Grill. The 26-year-old is currently listed in critical condition. The same bar was the scene of a November brawl in which two women were stabbed with broken beer bottles.
Just down the road, at the Lounge on Verona, Paul McMillan, 48, was found shot to death inside his vehicle on Jan. 25. No one has been charged, and an investigation is ongoing.
Burton said he will send officers more frequently to the area to create a “presence” in and around the bars’ parking lots.
“We’re trying to be more proactive down there to see if we can’t curtail some of that activity,” he said.
Burton said his department has been in contact with the state Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, which has launched its own investigation to determine whether the two establishments should be deemed nuisance bars.
Daniel Veckey, LCE supervisor, said his team will once again meet with the bar owners at H’s Bar and Grill to determine possible solutions.
“That could involve the bar getting security guards or cameras to alleviate the violence,” Veckey said.
He said agency officials sat down with the bar owners from both locations and the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office to talk about those options in November and again in January.
Mike Manko, spokesperson for the DA’s office, said the office will collect Penn Hills police reports on H’s Bar and Grill before having another meeting with the owner.
The owner of H’s Bar and Grill was not immediately available for comment.
The Lounge on Verona offered the following statement: “We are deeply saddened by the isolated incident that occurred outside of our establishment that resulted in loss of life. Our support, thoughts and prayers remain with the family as they mourn and heal. In efforts to ensure the safety of our staff, patrons and community we have increased our technical security, personnel security staff and safety awareness with all staff members. We continue to work with and remain in compliance with all governing agencies to ensure that our measures and efforts are effective. The safety of our patrons and staff are our top priority…The Lounge on Verona has a reputation for being a safe, professional and welcoming place for mature adults and it is our intention to remain that way.”
Meanwhile, residents are concerned.
One person who has lived along Verona Road for more than 30 years wished to remain anonymous for fear violent patrons might retaliate.
“I wouldn’t be upset if it was gone,” she said, referring to the Lounge on Verona. She said her house, now repaired, used to have bullet holes from shootings that happened at the bar in years past.
Janet Salmon, 62, lives along Verona Road nearby. She is concerned about the safety of her grandchildren, who are all under the age of 10.
“We babysit every weekend,” she said, adding that she once witnessed people from the bar running from law enforcement. “As a resident, I’m very concerned. I think it’s a nuisance bar.”
Penn Hills council members also are aware of the violence.
In April, council denied the transfer of a liquor license to a man who wanted to open a bar and restaurant at a vacant building near the Lounge on Verona. At the time, council members said they needed more detailed architectural drawings for the establishment, but several expressed concern over violence in the area.
“It was very difficult to turn down that young man,” Mayor Sara Kuhn said of Malcolm Snyder, the man who wanted to open an establishment along the road.
Kuhn said she has instructed the manager to look into working with law enforcement to see if H’s Bar and Grill could be closed down.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @dillonswriting. Staff writer Megan Guza contributed.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 724-850-1298, email@example.com or via Twitter .