Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thursday: Plodding Forward

The Steelers and a Columbus developer won't start construction of a proposed $12 million entertainment venue on the North Shore until April, four months later than required under a term sheet approved in August. (P-G, Mark Belko)

I guess there's no reason ever to hold the Steelers to anything.

Stadium Authority Executive Director Mary Conturo said she did not believe she needed board approval for the change in the start date, arguing the term sheet simply set forth the "basic intent of the transaction."

Do we have any legitimately functioning authorities?

UPDATE: Allegheny Institute.


Based on this and maybe a few other things, the Pittsburgh Comet has a lot of confidence in both the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office and the Court of Common Pleas. This is major-league problem solving. (P-G, Edit Board)


The head of Allegheny County's Health Department said today that restaurant inspection has been up to par.

Dr. Bruce Dixon testified before County Council's Health and Human Services Committee this afternoon, responding to a recent article in the Post-Gazette detailing shortcomings in restaurant inspection. (P-G, Daniel Malloy; h/t Pgh Is A City)


The long-awaited Henry Sciortino post should appear tomorrow. If anyone out there would like to scoop me or provide some input in advance as to what I might include or be wary of (it will neither be an exhaustive nor definitive piece), you should have about 24 hours.


Bruce Vilanch: Yeah, there aren't many cities where you can look down on skyscrapers. (Pittsburgh Hoagie)


City solicitor George Specter is now on the record independently regarding the developments.

"This so-called cease and desist letter, which is what it was, was sent to them, and they were given thirty days in which to come into compliance." (KDKA, Marty Griffin)

Mayor Ravenstahl:

"They were told to come into compliance, based on the issues that were brought forward to our attention, and our understanding is that they did come into compliance." (ibid.)

Now in today's paper:

A building inspector looked at the outside of the building a week later but didn't enter or write a report, said Bureau of Building Inspection Chief Sergei Matveiev. He did not know why the inspector didn't go in. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Had the club never been visited at all by BBI, that might have been explained by overworked departmental staff or even "things getting lost in the shuffle."

The only reason I can imagine to inspect a building's exterior in response to a situation involving these specific kinds of alleged non-compliances is to log or otherwise demonstrate the semblance of an inspection, and to purposefully look the other way while doing so. That seems more likely to me than sheer staff incompetence -- and there's plenty of motivation to look in that other direction.

From a comment on the Comet by Anonymous 4:43 AM:

This place has been around for years. Has always stayed off the radar. I will not be surprised to find that this poor guy died from some type of natural condition or exposure to a controlled substance.

Drugs are every where. Straight bars, gay bars, clubs, dive hotels, fancy hotels.

IF this is a private club, then what is the harm? As long as everyone is an adult, there are no illegal activities inside? And the patrons do not cause problems inside and out? Leave them be.

Also, there was F-Dzerzh:

This whole thing is a story because a man died, but the relationship between gay bar owners and city officials is a well-known and longstanding fact of life (and not only in Pittsburgh). It began in the pre-Stonewall days when they had to pay off the cops and other officials to prevent raids by the vice squad, and it never stopped. My understanding is that this fact is well-known in the gay community...

No doubt other bars, other businesses, and other building owners pay the equivalent of protection money to keep the regulators away. This is not a trivial fact, and specific examples ought to be exposed, but it is also wildly commonplace.

My response to all of that is that we definitely have to be sensitive, but we don't have to be reflexively tolerant. I don't know that anyone benefits from a double-standard, particularly one both institutionalized and shrouded in secrecy. There is an argument to be made about the bigotry of low expectations -- also I think the oft-cited "under the radar" nature of the club tells us something about its owners feelings on gay pride.

I'm not blind to the fact that Club Pittsburgh provides, perhaps tangentially, a needed service. I do wonder in 2009 whether this particular service is still so desperately necessary that we need to coddle it in all forms and deprive it of regulation. Things grow moldy in the dark.

It's also important to note that according to previous blogging by Sue (who is now admirably focused on the Big Queer Rally), some of these business operators and contributors (in some cases through prominent advocacy organizations) acted as near-formal liaisons between the GLBTQ community and the Ravenstahl administration, and were in the process of helping to organize the city's formal GLBT Advisory Board.


"As to its fate: the owners are obviously being fantastically coy about what they are operating, and are playing what one might call the sexual orientation card."

I think I must have been dreaming this. Certainly some anonymous commenters have started to play the sexual orientation card (and Mr. Karlovich certainly played the "I'm rich and people be hatin'" card) but I can find no evidence of the owners attempting to stifle public discussion by means of crying specifically homophobic persecution.

I don't know to what degree these two club owners are "respected in the community", but they do have my sincere apologies for that lack of respect and attention.


  1. As I understand the facts of the “Club Pittsburgh”, the place is zoned as a health club, but in fact operates as, what, a gay men’s meeting establishment. As far as I know it does not have a liquor license, nor any protections against minors entering the establishment. Anyway, there was a compliant (at least one) in June, the BBI looked at the outside of the building but did not enter (perhaps it was simply closed when the Inspector visited) and somehow an order to close the place was issued in August (based on website material). The owners went first to Doug Shields and then to Yaronne Zober. The meeting with Zober included George Specter and an assistant. A letter was written from the city law department withdrawing the order to close. And then someone died there.

    The lawyer representing the club says that activities were misrepresented on the club’s web site. Maybe this lawyer subscribes to the Luke Ravenstahl style of discourse; tell lies, and then act surprised (and hurt and betrayed) if your lies are exposed (and continue the original lie “we did nothing improper”).

  2. Well written, Ed. The lawyer is spinning, obfuscating...take your pick. There are a couple of porn flicks out there that discount his public statement.

    Oh, and the place is open 24/7. Guess he couldn't find the entrance.

  3. I am having a difficult time addressing the "the needed service" thing. In my mind this has nothing to do with the gay community. Wasn't it recently in North Huntingdon where a couple was running a swingers club, disguised as a church? The township zoning board didn't stand for that. Hoagie and his neighbors didn't want a strip club out on Carson Street, it was too close to neighbors. This is supposed to stand because, the owners also claim they have no neighbors, how is this zoned is the real question and what is the real use?

    Let me ask everyone this? If another club wanted to open in the Strip District, that was zoned heterosexual "spa-club" and you walked in and sex toys were being sold, rooms were available for free sex, people were walking around half naked, how long do you think that would stay open in the Strip District? Do you think someone wouldn't pull that permit? People, (Wives, husbands and Church Groups would be screaming bloody murder on the Mayors office door) Maybe in South Beach, or the Bahamas, probably not in the Strip District. Even if it has been under the radar, does incorrect permitting and zoning for the use make it right?

  4. Ed,

    If you look at their website again, you'll see they say that they require valid ID and that you must be 18+.

  5. Maria, I didn't see that on the website (I didn't think I should tarry since I was looking at the site from work during lunch). But while it is comforting to think that Club Pittsburgh is taking precautions, it undermines the premise that Club Pittsburgh is a health club and not a "private" sex club. Why do you need an age restriction if you don't serve alcohol? Because of the pornographic films that are shown there, apparently.

    Anon 6:51, good point about the 24/7 hours. The BBI disappoints again.

  6. I went to the website for LA Fitness but there were no visible penises on the site. I thought all health clubs had naked men walking around like Club Pittsburgh. I am glad I shopped around for a different club and don't have to pay the high Club Pittsburgh prices to work out any longer. This pay for play thing with the mayor really saved me some cash. Thanks Luke you are man! I hope you lined your pockets! I sure did!

    Looking back, it was sort of odd to have all those naked guys around. I was always being asked about "private rooms" and if I had any reservations about oil based lube. It was very annoying. I never had a use for the glory hole either. I once even went to get some coffee and I was approached and asked it I wanted some heavy cream to spice it up. I am glad to be rid of the place and it's much easier to work out to music. I did like the soundtrack for the "ass boys 12" movie that they liked to play but the moaning always got annoying.