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After Stn. Square Shooting, Councilman Wants New Hospitality Laws

In the wake of a shooting outside a Station Square club Saturday, a Pittsburgh Councilman is calling for more stringent laws to govern bars and nightclubs.

Two people were shot outside the jam-packed Club Zen at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. Councilman Bruce Kraus said one young man may be permanently paralyzed from the waist down as a result.

Kraus took the opportunity to announce his plan to write legislation that he said would help prevent such incidents.

The District 3 Councilman said he understands that Club Zen was hosting 700 people when the shooting occurred. He said that "enormous amount" may signify a need for stronger enforcement of occupancy limits in the city's nightclubs.

"Where's the occupancy permit?" asked Kraus. "Where is the placard clearly posted saying what a safe and legal number of people to be congregated in that establishment [is], first and foremost? And then, who's standing at the door, and who's counting the numbers?"

The type of service offered at many South Side and Station Square establishments has also become a problem, according to Kraus. He noted that bars and clubs are working around a statewide ban on caffeine/alcohol mixtures by offering the two substances separately.

"I think there's something that we should be able to do on a local level to speak to the issue of these kinds of products being combined in promotional events, and then being catered to college students," said Kraus.

The Councilman also decried the tendency of nightclubs to offer bottle service, calling it a way for bartenders to evade their responsibility of refusing service to visibly intoxicated patrons.

"To limit liability, I'm going to sell you a bottle of vodka up front, $100," said Kraus, playing the part of a bartender. "What you do from that point on is yours, because you were sober when I sold it to you. My hands are clean."

Kraus said he wants to draft a hospitality overhaul with help from Council Public Safety Chair Theresa Kail-Smith, Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety Director Michael Huss, and any other city official.

Station Square is in Kail-Smith's Council District, just outside Kraus's District, which includes the heavily liquor-licensed South Side.

No timeline was given for the legislation, but both Kail-Smith and Huss have expressed interest in the creation of a new policy.