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Pittsburgh zoning board approves expansion of Blush strip club

| Friday, June 17, 2011

An attorney for Pittsburgh Public Schools said the district will appeal the city's Zoning Board of Adjustment's decision to allow Downtown's only strip club to expand.

In its ruling, released yesterday, the zoning board said that Blush, at 135 Ninth St., can expand into a vacant building at the corner of Ninth Street and Penn Avenue, also owned by club owner Albert Bortz.

"I honestly do think this is a very good victory for the rule of law," said Jonathan Kamin, attorney for Bortz. "Everything we were required to show (to the zoning board), we met our burden. The zoning board did the right thing."

Kamin said he expects Bortz will move forward with the project soon.

Opponents to the expansion include the neighboring Pittsburgh School for the Creative and Performing Arts -- which has about 850 students in grades six through 12 -- along with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and other parties.

"We want to provide an atmosphere for our students to achieve and thrive in a cultural district," school district attorney Janet Burkardt said yesterday. "We don't think it's a consistent message if we're allowing this type of use expansion in the Cultural District."

Burkardt said the district, well before the decision, had decided to appeal to Common Pleas Court if the zoning board would allow the expansion.

Bortz earlier said he had to expand to compete with proposed gentlemen's clubs in the North Side and South Side. He and his predecessors have operated an adult club in the Ninth Street building for nearly 50 years, predating the city's zoning code.

City law prohibits expanding any nonconforming business if the work would increase the size of the business by 25 percent or more. Blush's expansion, adding nearly 3,200 square feet to the existing 12,763 square feet, is at the 25 percent level, according to the zoning board.

Plans call for moving the entrance to Blush farther down the street from CAPA. No signs will be installed on Penn Avenue, facing the Cultural District.

The zoning board wrote: "The board finds that (Bortz) has provided compelling testimony that the proposed expansion will not significantly impact the neighborhood nor impair its integrity. In spite of expansion of operations at (Blush), the board finds that the impact of increased operations will not significantly impact surrounding properties."

Opponents have 30 days to appeal the zoning board's ruling in Allegheny Court of Common Pleas.

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