Local district judge calling for state of emergency in South Side, businesses suffering

PITTSBURGH — Foxtail and Skybar on the South Side just announced they are closed until further notice. The news comes just days after videos surfaced of a woman displaying lewd and inappropriate behavior allegedly at one of the bar’s pool parties.

“That is an embarrassment. That video went viral across the United States. We have people in Florida that saw that video, what does that say about us,” said District Justice Eugene Ricciardi.

Although Foxtail and Skybar never returned Channel 11′s request for comment on the matter, neither did they attribute their closure to the videos directly. They put out a statement on their website which reads:

The safety and health of our guests and staff is our number one priority. After careful consideration, the owners of Foxtail/Skybar have decided to pause operations at the venue until further notice. The climate for operating a nighttime economy business in the South Side has regressed to the point of being unstable and has led to a customer base that is problematic. We will continue to support Mayor Gainey and the Public Safety Department’s South Side Safety Initiative Plan. We look forward to rejoining the community once a solution to the issues plaguing our neighborhood has been successfully implemented.

“I spoke to the bar owner, that bar is closing until we can get everything under control. I asked him and he agrees to drain the swimming pool on the third floor,” said Ricciardi.

Following what has been an uptick in violence and crime in the area, the district justice on the South Side wants the neighborhood to be declared a state of emergency.

“I’m calling for the state, the county, the city to declare the South Side a state of emergency to public health issue in terms of the crime that we are experiencing,” said Ricciardi.

Ricciardi wants state troopers, county police and sheriff deputies to be involved with enforcement on the South Side, along with having drug- and gun-sniffing dogs patrol the streets.

Although Ricciardi does not have the power to declare an emergency, he is calling on both Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala and Mayor Ed Gainey to make it happen.

On Tuesday, representatives from the mayor’s office and the city department of public safety were in attendance for the South Side chamber of commerce’s planning forum.

“I think if you get rid of three or four of the bad bars, that would solve a lot of the problems,” said one bar owner.

During the virtual meeting, many South Side business owners expressed that increased crime isn’t the only thing hurting their bottom line. One bar owner said business is down nearly 60 to 70 percent and as a result, he has asked the city to enforce an underage curfew.

“Why is there a 16-, 17-year-old kid on the South Side past 11? It blows my mind. They got into the South Side, they can get out,” he said.

Pittsburgh police commander John Fisher said his department has officers stationed outside bars that have been deemed a problem.

“We try to do that, but keep in mind I only have 15 officers down there,” said Fisher.

“To give you a comparison, this time last year I had 30 officers working down there. So now I’m working with half, so we’re lacking in manpower.”

Still, Christie Neff, who owns Twelve Whiskey BBQ and the Meatball Company on Carson, told Channel 11 having extra police around has made a world of difference.

“The police presence has been amazing,” said Neff. “They are not letting people hang out in the streets or loiter, all of the loitering is gone so it’s been a huge progress in just a few weeks.”

Neff also wants to remind people of all the good the area still offers.

“You can still hang out down here and have a good time. You don’t have to worry you’ll get shot, that doesn’t happen everywhere,” said Neff.

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