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City of Pittsburgh to allow Flynt strip club in Chateau

Pittsburgh- from – Fearing a million-dollar judgment, the city of Pittsburgh agreed Friday to allow a Hustler Club to open in the Chateau neighborhood, angering some of the adult entertainment venue’s neighbors-to-be.

“When you’re trying to rebrand and market the neighborhood, as we’re trying to do, a strip club is definitely the wrong fit,” said Ahmed Martin, executive director of the Manchester Citizens Corp., a nonprofit development group that is pursuing a $20 million revamp of the neighborhood just across Ohio River Boulevard from the site. “The negative perception that strip club will [create] will affect property values in the area.”

City officials said they settled a federal lawsuit filed by two developers because the alternative would have been an expensive defeat.

“The plaintiffs would have sought damages in the seven figures,” said city Solicitor Dan Regan. The settlement protects the city from any monetary loss and bars the club from using words such as “naked” or “topless,” and characterizations including “xxx,” on signs and in radio or TV ads.

Hustler Club developers HDV-Pittsburgh LLC, a Nevada firm, and Pennsylvania Ave Pittsburgh Properties LLC, with its principal office in Michigan, sued the city in April 2009, saying its zoning code violated the First Amendment by restricting a business based on its expression.

“It’s highly likely the plaintiffs would have prevailed,” said Mr. Regan.

“After arduous and very, very lengthy negotiations, we have come to an agreement,” said Brad Shafer, attorney for the developers. If the city had continued to fight, he said, it would have paid.

“I have quite a collection of checks that cities have had to write me in the past, and my clients gave up all of their rights to get [attorney fees from Pittsburgh].”

The club’s site plan has been approved by the city, and if U.S. District Judge David S. Cercone approves the settlement, it will pursue building permits. Warner Mariani, another attorney for the developers, said the club may open in six months.

“We’ll have alcohol and full nudity as well,” he said.

The site is at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Metropolitan Street. It is a short drive from the Rivers Casino and the stadiums.

It is about a dozen blocks from Manchester resident Sue Kerr’s house.

“How the heck is a Hustler Club going to help the North Side?” said Ms. Kerr. “And we just closed the Garden Theater.”

That venerable adult cinema was the subject of a long court fight between the city and its owner, before the Urban Redevelopment Authority bought it in 2007.

“We’ve traded a porno theater for a new strip club,” said Ms. Kerr. “To me, it’s just another example of the city showing complete disregard for the North Side.”

She said Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle, who represents the area, should have warned the neighborhood that this was coming.

“It’s unfortunate that this process was not able to come before council,” said Mr. Lavelle, adding that he would have opposed the club. He said he briefed Manchester residents about the pending litigation and would now work with them to try to control any impact on the neighborhood.

Councilman Doug Shields, who heads the committee on planning and zoning, said the Law Department kept council apprised of the process in closed-door executive sessions. He agreed with Mr. Regan that the city had no strong legal defense.

“This is life, and this is life in America, and it has a Constitution that makes people uncomfortable at times,” he said.

The city is fighting would-be developers of another adult venue, this one on West Carson Street, in Commonwealth Court.

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