Friday, September 7, 2012

South Side bar owners will lead neighborhood cleanup - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

Bar owners often criticized for contributing to litter and other problems on the South Side will lead a neighborhood cleanup Sunday with the help of young people being punished for unruly behavior.

The new South Side Bar and Restaurant Association will hold its first "Operation Clean Sweep" from 7 to 11 a.m. Efforts will focus on the stretch of East Carson Street between the 10th Street Bridge and 24th Street and on side streets, such as Sarah and Muriel.

Bar owners talked about such projects as long as two years ago. Now, they're coming to fruition because of a core group of young proprietors who want to be more involved in the community, said John Lewis, a neighborhood property owner and an owner of Villa Southside at 1831 E. Carson. On Sunday, establishment owners, employees, University of Pittsburgh students and other volunteers will be joined by 15 offenders, mostly young people, sentenced to community service for summary violations such as littering, public intoxication and disorderly conduct.

District Judge Eugene Ricciardi said he's made a habit of requiring community service from people who tarnish the neighborhood and often makes their services available to community groups for cleanups, painting projects and graffiti removal.

"If you've littered in the past and you're on a cleanup crew, that might stop you from littering," he said.

He said his other option would be to impose a $100 fine on offenders, a slight penalty "if they're already paying $20,000 in tuition and room and board" at one of the city's universities.

City Councilman Bruce Kraus and East Carson residents repeatedly have complained about vandalism, litter, noise and public urination that they blame on weekend visitors.

Mr. Lewis said some of the criticism is warranted and some is not. He said the bar and restaurant association wants to change perceptions of the nightlife scene but stressed that the cleanup effort "isn't grandstanding."

Mr. Kraus said the initiative shows that establishment owners are embracing the hospitality concepts that the city is attempting to implement with the help of California-based Responsible Hospitality Institute. Judge Ricciardi said 25 to 30 more offenders will assist with another community group's cleanup Sept. 22. He said community service has yielded remarkable change for the neighborhood and those punished.

"I have very little recidivism," he said.

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