Lawrenceville community group opposes new bar/restaurant Alchemy N' Ale
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Despite protests from community organizations, Alchemy N' Ale opened in Lawrenceville this weekend.
Lauren Byrne, Lawrenceville United's executive director, sent a letter to the owners of the bar and restaurant on Wednesday expressing concerns with plans to have live entertainment during the grand opening celebrations throughout the weekend.
"In our initial meetings, and during the community meetings, you had indicated that you would possibly have a ... singer/songwriter, but explicitly not a DJ because it would not fit with your high-end restaurant concept," the letter read.
"We wanted to see if anything else changed," Ms. Byrne said in an interview.
As of Friday evening, she has not received a response from Kathleen Sheehan or Fred Gardner, the restaurant's owners.
Miss Sheehan, an attorney from Ross, said on Thursday that the plan to have disc jockeys on the weekends will stand.
"Quite honestly, I'm not going to have Lawrenceville United dictate to me something I'm allowed under the law to do," she said.
Miss Sheehan said that she and Mr. Gardner selected Lawrenceville as a location because they want to bring new life to the 10th Ward.
"We did a lot of research and we feel that Lawrenceville is an up-and-coming area and we wanted to be a part of that," she said.
In May, Lawrenceville United, Lawrenceville Corp. and Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd filed petitions seeking to intervene in the transfer of the restaurant's liquor license.
Ms. Byrne said she received a letter this week indicating that a hearing on the liquor license transfer will be scheduled soon. Stacey Witalec, a spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, said the hearing will occur in the coming months and that Alchemy N' Ale can sell alcohol under the current license.
Mr. Dowd declined to comment on the petition.
The community organizations' concern revolves around David Santa, the gastropub's operator. Mr. Santa has been involved with nightclubs including Mynt Lounge and Bash Nightclub in the Strip District and Elixir Ultra Lounge on the South Side.
Mr. Santa pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct charge in 2002 and to a retail theft charge in 2009. He was also charged in 1997 after police raided an after-hours club on the South Side that was operating without a liquor license.
Miss Sheehan said she was aware of the charges when she hired Mr. Santa.
"I'm not going to hold something against someone that they did over 10 years ago when they've done excellent things in the interim," she said.
Ms. Byrne said the neighborhood business organization is "trying to keep a healthy balance."
"We definitely want residents and businesses to be able to coexist in Lawrenceville."
Maya Henry, business district manager for the Lawrenceville Corp., said Lawrenceville "would welcome with open arms" a responsible, well-managed bar, but said her organization is not sure Alchemy N' Ale is the answer.
"We would love to have a great fine dining establishment in the area," Ms. Henry said, "but primarily people would rather see a more responsible manager."
Mr. Santa said that's the kind of manager he plans to be.
"Most of that stuff happened when I was a kid," he said. "I'm 37 now."
An off-duty Pittsburgh police officer will man the door on weekends, he said.
"We want to make sure there are no problems leaving here," he said.
"I don't want this to be the South Side."
Mr. Santa said Alchemy N' Ale will "fill a void" in Upper Lawrenceville by drawing young professionals to the neighborhood, but he added that he hopes neighbors stop by often.
Nearby business owners say they hope Alchemy N' Ale is a success.
"I'm excited," said Erinn Thompson, owner of Bloom Organic Skincare Parlor on Butler Street. "I'm just happy to see new businesses."
Meegan Triggs, owner of Atelier Glass Studio & Gallery, agreed.
"I think they deserve a chance," she said. "Competition is healthy. We need more restaurants because restaurants bring people."
Shelly Maiese, owner of Elements, moved her consignment shop from the 3800 block of Butler Street to the 10th Ward last year.
She said she hopes Alchemy N' Ale draws more business down that end of Butler Street.
"When I was down at the other end of Lawrenceville, the businesses kept coming, but nothing really developed until we got restaurants."
First Published June 26, 2011 12:00 am