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South Side social club plans raise neighbors' concerns

| Monday, Feb. 28, 2011

Perry Sigesmund isn't thrilled about plans for a social club just a couple of doors away from his South Side business.

"I think it's time to take a look at the block, take some time to see what they want to do with it," said the owner of the Perlora furniture store in the 2200 block of East Carson Street.

Pittsburgh's Zoning Hearing Board will meet at 9:10 a.m. March 10 to discuss the proposed social club, which would operate in a vacant three-story building that formerly housed St. Elmo's Books. Plans for the club will also be discussed during a South Side planning forum meeting on March 8.

Lawyer Jonathan Kamin said Tom Barnes, who previously ran establishments on the South Side, will operate the social club. Zoning board documents give the name of the club as the PAC Club of Western PA but provide no further description.

Kamin said Tom Jayson is acting as a consultant on the project. Jayson had also operated multiple nightclubs in the area but frequently ran into financial difficulties, according to court records.

Neither Barnes nor Jayson could be reached for comment.

"It'll be a place where members can go for soup or a sandwich, have a drink," Kamin said. "It's not going to be 'nightclubesque.' "

Kamin said if the city grants permission for the social club, it could open in "late springtime."

The zoning board will have to consider issues such as parking, the effect of the business on traffic and the hours of operation in making a decision as to whether to allow the social club to open.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus declined comment on the planned club. The South Side has more than 150 establishments with liquor licenses, and Kraus, who represents the area, has been a proponent of managing nightlife problems in the neighborhood.

Last month, he introduced legislation that would release as much as $100,000 to help develop a hospitality zone for the South Side. The zone would team businesses, public safety and residents in developing rules on how the businesses would operate.

Kamin said the social club, across from the South Side branch of the Carnegie Library and the Birmingham Bridge, wouldn't be a source of trouble.

"It'll be as minimally invasive as you can have for a bar/restaurant," Kamin said. "The concept, it's not the loud music blaring, the intense South Side stuff. It will be more relaxed, a place to hang out."

Sigesmund said of the number of establishments serving alcohol in the South Side, "I think they just have to put the brakes on."

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