Over the past year, Manchester has celebrated many milestones on its way to rebranding as a thriving, desirable community, including major progress on two housing projects designed to bring new residents into the neighborhood.
Soon, though, the Manchester area will find itself the location of a development that some residents fear could undo much of their efforts towards reversing Manchester’s image: a strip club.
The club will go at the corner of Metropolitan Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in the Chateau neighborhood, which has 39 residents, according to the 2000 U.S. Census. Chateau and Manchester are separated by Rt. 60 and Rt. 65, which block direct pedestrian and motorized access between the two sections of Pennsylvania Avenue.
The City of Pittsburgh recently settled a lawsuit with The Hustler Club, owned by HDV-Pittsburgh LLC and Pennsylvania Ave Pittsburgh Properties LLC, which will allow them to open the club, but bar use of certain words and phrases — like XXX and naked — in advertising and on signs.
City officials did not return requests for comment on the settlement or the strip club.
Bradley Shafer, a Michigan-based attorney who represented the strip club owners in their lawsuit, said that the owners were applying for building permits and hoped the club would open within six months.
Ahmed Martin, executive director of Manchester Citizens Corporation, said he was disappointed in the city’s lack of communication with MCC about the lawsuit and the club.
But more importantly, Martin said, he’s worried about the negative perception and possibility of crime a strip club will bring to the neighborhood.
“We’re working to rebrand Manchester and this is the opposite of that,” Martin said. “For a neighborhood that’s battling such a negative perception, it’s just not helpful.
“There would have been a much more public response from us had we been aware of the stages of negotiations.”
HDV-Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Ave Pittsburgh Properties filed a lawsuit against the city in April 2009 because they felt the city’s restrictions on adult entertainment were unconstitutional.
Martin has been MCC’s executive director for one month, and said he believed Councilman Daniel Lavelle had contacted the organization about the strip club before he joined the organization.
Former MCC Executive Director Jerome Jackson said in an e-mail that he was aware of the club and the legal proceedings, but declined to go into detail.
Harry Johnson, a representative from Lavelle’s office, said in an e-mail that because the litigation went through federal court, it was not subject to public hearings or community meetings.
Johnson said in the e-mail, “Councilman Lavelle’s office is planning to work very closely with law enforcement, the Manchester Citizens Corporation and the Hustler establishment to address these concerns. It is critical to ensure this establishment does not hinder, for one minute, the positive economic activity that is both ongoing and upcoming in the Manchester community.”
Shafer said that city Solicitor Dan Regan had contacted him about setting up a meeting between the community and the strip club owners. He said Regan asked for a contact person with whom to set up the meeting.
“I’m the contact person, no one has contacted me,” Shafer said.
Martin said that although the club looked like a done deal, MCC is exploring all of their options.
In a similar situation, concerned citizens in the West End are battling a decision to allow a strip club on West Carson Street to open next to a substance abuse rehab center, and litigation is ongoing.
The continuing litigation is the result of a botched internal communication process in the city that resulted in the denial of the strip club’s application without the proper public hearing process. The club owners appealed the decision in court and won, and the city is now appealing that decision.