PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — While stabbings and shootings in downtown Pittsburgh cause alarm, restaurant owners said it’s the aggressive panhandlers that annoy customers daily.
“When you’re constantly getting bombarded,” Richard Bufalino, co-owner of Olive or Twist, told KDKA money editor Jon Delano, “there are panhandlers walking right up to people, almost pushing them into the streets. They’re so aggressive. And they keep getting more and more aggressive.”
Bufalino shot and shared a video with KDKA of a panhandler casing the outdoor tables on Sixth Street.
When the panhandler starts soliciting diners, a waitress comes out to move the panhandler away.
“They were making the rounds around all the tables, talked to us, talked to the next person,” said Ian Lauer of North Oakland. “And nobody really did anything about it. It was a strange experience.”
Lauer said he’s experienced panhandling at tables inside and outside eateries.
He’s hardly alone.
“It’s a regular occurrence, especially in a city like this and around Market Square like we are now,” noted Rick Hawkins of Braddock. “It’s going to happen a lot.”
Another video shows a panhandler entering one sports bar, only to be thrown out by staff. Another one got caught rifling through staff lockers.
There is a city ordinance on panhandling that allows panhandling during daylight hours.
But it also has some restrictions that the owners of these sports bar said are not being enforced by city police.
For example, panhandlers cannot solicit within 25 feet of any outdoor dining area.
“The mayor has to open up his eyes,” said Redbeard’s owner Len Semplice, who organized a meeting of business owners with city officials on Wednesday.
He just wants the city to recognize the problem.
“We cannot arrest people for panhandling, but we can arrest them for their conduct when it becomes aggressive,” said Peduto on Thursday afternoon.