PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Bar-hopping crowds and some violent incidents have pitted bar owners against residents on the South Side this summer with the police in the middle.
Tuesday, Public Safety leaders met with the business owners to try to iron out those differences. The morning meeting brought together about two dozen bar owners, who complain they’ve gotten a bad rap for the sporadic violence and sometimes unruly crowds who have clogged East Carson Street on Friday and Saturday nights.READ MORE: 'There's No Money To Fix It:' Roads And Bridges In Need Of Repair In Limbo As Leaders Negotiate Infrastructure Plan In Congress
Owners like Rich Cupka say measures like blocking the street from through traffic has severely impacted their businesses and that police have been hands-off about open pot smoking and permitting skirmishes with no arrests.
“You could have a thousand police down here at night. If they’re not allowed to do their jobs, it’s going to go on forever,” he said.
Safety Director Wendell Hissrich denies the police have their hands tied but have focused on arresting the more severe offenders and says so far, the city’s measures have paid off.READ MORE: Pittsburgh Weather: Warmer Temperatures Expected Before Fall Conditions Return This Weekend
“What the bar owners want, the residents don’t. What the residents want, the bar owners don’t. And the police officers and Public Safety are in the middle. When we started this we had several hundred if not thousands on the sidewalk and police could not see what was going on, and now we’ve maintained an emergency lane and have visibility for the officers,” Hissrich said.
Under discussion are measures to loosen up the traffic blocks and possibly provide greater access for Uber and Lyft to ferry revelers in and out of the neighborhood. But bartender and resident Jessica Ceilak says improving the behavior of some of the wilder patrons is a much taller order.
“You can’t do anything you want here, and that message has to go out to the public,” said Ceilak.
Director Hissrich says he is open to new ideas but balancing the needs of residents and bar owners will always be a work in progress.MORE NEWS: Heavy Police Presence Gathers On South Side, Officers Seen Collecting 2 Guns
“Between September 3rd and 19th in the South Side corridor, police received 195 calls for service, made 11 arrests, one firearms-related arrest, one firearm seizure, issued 284 citations, and towed 38 vehicles,” Public Safety said in a statement.