Miller's Ale House chain pulls out of South Side deal

Miller's Ale House backs away

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First Toby Keith, now Miller's Ale House. A prime piece of riverfront real estate on the South Side can't seem to keep a tenant.

The Florida-based Miller's Ale House chain has backed out of a deal to open a 9,000-square-foot full-service restaurant on half an acre of land next to Hofbrauhaus at the SouthSide Works complex.

City Urban Redevelopment Authority board members Thursday rescinded resolutions involving the sale of the parcel to Mon Shore MAH Associates LP, an affiliate of the Soffer Organization, the SouthSide Works developer.

The URA had agreed to sell the land to Soffer for $221,000 plus costs, but the sale never was completed, said Alfred Maiello, general counsel for the developer.

Mr. Maiello said the parties were just weeks away from closing on the property when Miller's abruptly backed out of the project. By that time, Soffer had completed design work, had obtained URA approvals, and had lined up a contractor to do foundation work, he said.

He added that Miller's never gave a reason for pulling out, although he suspects it had something to do with the sale of the restaurant chain to the Atlanta-based Roark Capital Group, a private equity firm, in July.

"Nobody really knows a reason. The only thing we can figure is that the CEO and new owner didn't want to move forward with any project," he said, adding that it doesn't seem as if the chain is opening any restaurants in the Pittsburgh region right now.

Soffer, feeling that Miller's defaulted under its agreement, is considering possible legal action, Mr. Maiello said.

Neither representatives for Miller's Ale House nor Roark Capital Group could be reached for comment.

Miller's, billed as a family-friendly, casual-dining restaurant, was to be a replacement for Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, which moved to the North Shore following a lease dispute with Soffer.

Twice bitten by restaurants, Soffer now is re-evaluating the type of development it wants to see on the parcel, which overlooks the Monongahela River, said Thomas M. Despres, chief financial officer.

One possibility, he said, is an office building with a first-floor restaurant.

"It's wide open at this point," Mr. Despres said. "At this point, since we've been through Toby Keith and Miller's, we're looking at something more substantial at the site."

Soffer got some good news Thursday when URA board members cleared the way for it and Village Green Development Holding LLC to pursue LERTA-related tax abatements for a housing and parking development by removing the parcels needed for the project from the SouthSide Works tax increment financing district.

Village Green and Soffer are teaming to build a 262-unit apartment complex and a 559-space parking garage plus street-level retail on the land at Sidney and 26th Streets.

Mark Belko: mbelko@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1262.


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