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Pittsburgh Restaurant, Bar Owners Work to Make Nightlife Safer Across City

The Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) was contracted with the City of Pittsburgh almost a year ago to develop a so-called Sociable City Plan. That plan aims to improve the city’s nighttime economy while also ensuring public safety.

Several restaurant and bar owners from Pittsburgh’s South Side gathered on Wednesday to discuss progress and future steps.

“What’s happened in less than a year is you have the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association that’s formed, so you have a membership organization of leaders from nightlife visitors," said Jim Peters, president of RHI. "You have improved communication with the community council and with law enforcement, so you have outcomes that are improving cooperation and collaboration.”

Guest speakers at the panel included a specialist in training security guards and a representative from a company that developed ID scanners. Rich said better policing strategies and crowd management are among the priorities in balancing safety and fun in nightlife venues.

“When you bring large groups of people together and they’re in social venues and in compact areas and you introduce alcohol into the mix, then you’re increasing potential safety risks and behavior risks that could impact not only peoples’ physical safety, but also the quality of life for people who live in and around the neighborhood,” he said.

City officials want to ensure nighttime venues continue to thrive.

“The nighttime economy is really a key engine for the city,” Rich said, “and as you’re trying to attract more students, more faculty, more young professionals and technology workers, they’re oriented to more of a social experience that happens in the evening and late night.”

Much of the Sociable City Plan has focused on the South Side because of the concentration of bars, restaurants and clubs. Efforts underway include more aggressive enforcement of occupancy limits, parking restrictions and other issues. Officials do plan to expand efforts.

“This is really a city-wide project,” Rich said. “It’s not something that’s specific to South Side. We have task forces that are meeting and looking at all aspects of the nighttime economy.”

The task forces are on district management, public safety, transportation, hospitality practices and personal accountability.

A second Sociable City event will be held this week. On Friday, the five task forces will present quarterly updates, and a guest speaker from the San Francisco Entertainment Commission will address the group on success there.