Impact of the Closure of James St Gastropub and Speakeasy – My Opinion

Wednesday, James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy announced that they are closing permanently on November 11, 2017. You can read more details in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette piece.

I’ve been reading a lot of responses on Facebook and beyond. I’m struck by the power of the clash between those who see this as a personal decision and those who see it as endemic in a system of gentrification. Closing by November 11 means a lot of contracts and obligations won’t get fulfilled and that doesn’t seem to me how Kevin & Lisa operate. I don’t believe they would leave so many people hanging without more notice unless things were dire around the implied threat of being declared a nuisance bar. After all, these folks have invested in James Street and many count on the income from their events to support their own families. Plus, there’s nowhere for them to just go.

I don’t know a lot about the PA Liquor Control Board, but it seems that an agreement could have been reached to allow for a more reaonable timespan to close the business without attaching a nuisance violation to the liquor license.

Frankly, I don’t believe for a minute that everything is fine in Deutschtown. Too many people are reeling from this decision. It is one thing to help find other restaurant jobs, but quite another to rehome hundreds of performers.  Remember what’s been happening in East Liberty? Stop being distracted by claims that these are one-off incidents.

This is what I wrote on my own Facebook timeline:

The response to the decision to close James Street Gastropub and Speakeasy has been interesting. The closest neighbors and the CDC are painting this as an interpersonal dispute between one neighbor and JS, that JS could not win because there is no way to actually comply with PCLB and state law around noise.

Almost everyone else thinks this is a systemic issue wherein a neighborhood of people who want to go upscale are throwing out the baby with the bathwater regardless of impact on the larger community, the arts community, the black and queer performing arts communities, etc. And the people who have lived in these blocks for decades.

I see this as furthering East Liberty and the Shadow Lounge all over again even though the owners of JS are white cis het folks. Pushing out so-called nuisances undermines the cultural legacies of these communities. It paves the way for more high-end housing, high-end restaurants (white owned fried chicken and poke, anyone?) and high-end everything else.

I’d really like to know what ALL of the OTHER neighbors around James Street think.

I’d also like to know other situations where one person can destroy a business using the law while hundreds of other violent crimes go unaddressed in these same neighborhoods. If the City, County, and State enforced laws just around Steeler home games – the revenue would cover building a whole sound barrier around the grumpy neighbors entire house.

Deutschtown and/or East Allegheny residents need to pull their heads out of their asses and do some real work on the fallout of this crappy outcome. You can’t expect us who suffer from this to simply say ‘oh well’ and keep shopping on East Ohio Street.

Let me remind you that two young black mothers have been murdered on the Northside this summer and there have been no arrests or updates in the investigations. Where are the priorities of the residents of Deutschtown?


But we will. We will be indignant, we might even sign a petition. Folks in Deutschtown who don’t want to be considered anti-black, anti-LGBTQ, anti-arts will howl in protest at being lumped in with those people. By all means, we must support progress. Blah, blah, blah.

And people like me who aren’t going to go to Cattivo (smoke) or Mr. Small’s (standing) or the Rex Theater (white supremacy) are simply going to stop supporting LGBTQ performing arts without our presence. We’ll find other things to do.

I think that’s what everyone is counting on after all. Otherwise, we might start pushing for equal resources to be invested in solving the homicides of black mothers as we do policing noise violations.

UPDATE: This post mistakenly referenced Deutschtown as Allegheny West. It has been updated to accurately use the neighborhood, East Allegheny. I apologize for the mistake. I’m also shocked that it took seven days for someone to notice.

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