Club Erotica: Nuisance club or not?
Updated: Feb 19, 2021
Photo by Jamie Wiggan
After a double homicide occurred there last month, Club Erotica has again been brought under scrutiny by residents as a nuisance club.
By Jamie Wiggan
Following a bloody shooting match that left two dead and three wounded outside Club Erotica Jan. 29, some in the community are raising concerns the adult night club poses a broader safety threat to the public.
One resident, Greggory Howell, said he’s planning to organize a protest to pressure local authorities into closing or relocating the club. Another, Mary Ann Sinicrope, delivered public remarks at a council meeting Feb. 9 tying in the strip club shootings to a general uptick in violence throughout the community.
During a caucus meeting the night before, Councilwoman Sarah Harvey said she’d been contacted by another resident who asked her to see if the borough would consider revoking the club’s occupancy permit.
“She wants to know ‘how many people do I have to watch die in that parking lot before the government of McKees Rocks does something about it,’” Harvey said.
With regard to those immediately responsible for the fatalities, Allegheny County police have charged two men with criminal homicide and aggravated assault. Whether the nightclub – reportedly open during the night of the incident – should shoulder any measure of blame is less clear.
Representatives from District Attorney Steven Zappala’s office met with the club’s owner and manager Feb. 1 to determine its role in the shooting and explore possible public safety repercussions. Having given “several recommendations regarding security,” Mike Manko, communications director, said the office would not however pursue further action.
“Since it is equivocal at this point what role the operation of the club played in the events of Jan. 29, 2020, our office does not plan any further action at this point,” Manko said.
State guidelines issued by Gov. Tom Wolf’s office currently prohibit venues that serve alcohol without food to operate while the coronavirus remains at-large.
Amie Downs, Allegheny County’s communications director, confirmed the venue does not have a food permit from the county health department.
Downs said the department received reports the club began serving food during the latter part of 2020 and subsequently issued two cease and desist letters for doing so without a permit.
Department inspectors later visited the facility and determined it was not in operation, according to Downs, who added that food permits provide the only means for the county to enforce coronavirus regulations.
Complicating guideline enforcement by state agencies, Club Erotica has not held a liquor license since 2008 and is therefore not subject to routine inspections from the State Police Department of Liquor Control Enforcement. As a distributor of free liquor, the club still falls under their jurisdiction, however.
Manko said the Feb. 1 meeting included representatives from liquor control enforcement, who reiterated to the owner and manager the various restrictions outlined under the “bottle club laws” by which the club purportedly serves free alcoholic drinks.
McKees Rocks Police Chief Rick Deliman said Club Erotica has been operating under bottle club laws as long as he can recall, but added there’s some ambiguity in the written codes that make it hard to determine whether they’re being followed to the letter.
With respect to enforcing state-issued coronavirus regulations, Deliman said local police departments “fall at the bottom of the list.”
“I don’t know whether they should have been open or not [on the night of the shooting],” he said.
Howell, a Philadelphia native and current McKees Rocks resident, said he’s heard complaints about the club ever since arriving here four years ago.
“That place is a beacon for people who do not live in our community to come here and start violence,” he wrote on a social media post urging residents to take part in a protest against the club.
In an interview by phone, Howell said he wants the protest to send a message to Club Erotica’s owners and managers that they’re hurting the town’s reputation.
“I want the people who own the club, who manage the club and run the club, to know that all the people in that neighborhood… that club affects every one of them, and it’s not in a good way.”
Howell said he doesn’t necessarily want to shut it down but would settle with transplanting it to a section of the town further from residential homes.
Howell hasn’t yet determined a date for his protest but said he intends to combine it with the launch of his McKees Rocks mayor candidacy sometime in the spring.
Deliman said the brutality of the double homicides last month was out of the ordinary for the club and would be wary of labeling it a nuisance bar.
“We answer calls there: disputes, public drunkenness — those kinds of things,” he said. “…Whether it’s been a nuisance club, I don’t know if I can classify that.”
Council President Archie Brinza said he’d heard resident concerns following the shooting but was awaiting more information from the county before considering any action on the part of the borough.