PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The meeting was private, off-limits to the media, but a number of Downtown stakeholders, including law enforcement officials and Councilman Daniel Lavelle who represents the area, gathered on the second floor of Redbeard’s Sports Bar & Grill on Sixth with one message.
“We see an impact on business. Less people are starting to come Downtown, especially in that baby boomer generation,” Richard Bufalini, who owns Olive or Twist, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano on Wednesday. “You see less and less people downtown in the evenings, and weekdays are starting to become non-existent.”
WATCH: Safety Concerns Are Hurting Downtown Businesses
With four stabbings downtown in recent months, a Fourth of July shooting, and more street hustlers getting aggressive while panhandling passers-by, Michael McCoy said, “I think in the last six years it’s definitely gotten worse.”
McCoy is the owner of the Zombie Den, a pop-up bar in Market Square next to the Original Oyster House.
“People are afraid to come down, especially with the recent stabbings and the shootings that have happened. Definitely puts a tax on business.”
The meeting was organized by Redbeard’s owner Len Semplice, who says he wants the city to start listening.
“Every city has its problems. We didn’t invent it, but other cities are handling it, and I don’t think we have a grip on it yet,” said Semplice. “It’s still new to us, and we don’t know how to handle it. If we want to promote our city, we have to do something.”
Councilman Daniel Lavelle, who was at the meeting, says he understands the concerns
“I think if you purely look at the criminal statistics, the downtown is a fairly safe neighborhood, probably our safest neighborhood within the city,” said Lavelle. “But perception is also very real, and I can tell you based on the calls that I have gotten into my office, there is an increased concern with what is happening downtown with both panhandling and violence.”
After the meeting that included a representative from Mayor Peduto’s office business owners said it was a good listening session, even if little action seemed to come out of it.
Jennifer Grippa, the owner of the Original Oyster House, says they wanted to get everyone on the same page, and that seemed to be a good first start.