By Jamie Wiggan
A recent spate of police activity surrounding adult nightclubs True Diamonds in Stowe and Club Erotica in McKees Rocks has residents reaching out to elected officials asking for a solution.
A growing sense of unease voiced by some local residents who fear the community’s two adult nightclubs pose a broad safety threat was evident during recent municipal meetings in both towns.
“I’m just tired of turning on the TV and seeing something about True Diamonds,” said resident Jeffrey Paul in an appeal to Stowe commissioners April 12.
“When do we say enough and shut this place down or do some drastic changes to it?”
Several others in the audience expressed support for Paul’s comments.
Likewise, since the shooting outside Club Erotica in January, McKees Rocks residents have brought their frustrations to the council on more than one occasion.
Maria McDonough, said she witnessed the January shooting from her home, and began describing the incident to councilmembers during the March 9 meeting, but was unable to finish before President Archie Brinza informed her she had used up her three-minute speaking allocation.
“You’ve got to move that place somewhere else,” she said.
Within both communities, some officials are eager to come down strongly against the nightclubs while others say they should leave matters to law enforcement agencies at the county and state levels.
Stowe Commissioners Dave Rugh and Cheryl McDermott both urged their colleagues to consider ways to work toward closing True Diamonds during the April 12 meeting.
“I believe we should look into shutting it down, ending the party,” McDermott said. “I believe that if that happened, you would get a decent person in who would look at that building.”
Commissioner’s President Robin Parilla meanwhile cautioned against interfering with private business owners.
“[The owner’s] meeting all the standards to open a place like that,” he said. “We do have a place in our town where those businesses open, and that’s where it’s at down there.”
In McKees Rocks, Councilmember Liz Delgado said during an April 12 caucus meeting she had continued to receive messages from residents concerned about the status of Club Erotica. She called on her colleagues to consider “creative solutions” for encouraging the relocation of Club Erotica away from residentially-zoned districts.
“I’m just looking for ideas, and think that we as a council ought to be addressing the concerns of the citizens,” Delgado said.
In response, Mayor Jack Muhr suggested the borough shouldn’t take further action against the club because the January shooting took place in the parking lot outside the building.
Plans discussed by PennDOT may call for the demolition of several Island Avenue properties including Club Erotica as part of an overhaul of the McKees Rocks Bridge, Muhr added.
Councilman Nick Radoycis suggested stricter enforcement of residential-only parking in the club’s vicinity could reduce disturbances to local residents.
The latest in ongoing police activity at True Diamonds occurred April 8 when criminal complaints filed with the magistrate detail undercover visits to the Stowe strip club were paid by a state police officer, who testified owner Matthew Marshall and security employee Eric Littleton were complicit in illegal alcohol sales. The two were charged.
According to the complaints, the officer visited the Stowe establishment on two occasions in March, and both times was required to pay a $25 fee to enter a designated room where he was served alcohol.
Pennsylvania State Police also executed a search warrant there March 25, seizing 4.5 gallons of beer, 48 liters of liquor and wine and $1,025 in cash. Between the search and the arrest, a man was shot and critically wounded outside the club on April 4.
Investigations by the state police began after a fatal shooting outside the nightclub on Dec. 5, 2020, according to Communications Director Ryan Tarkowski.
The club does not hold a liquor license but reportedly distributes alcoholic beverages without charging customers directly. Pennsylvania’s liquor laws allow venues to serve free alcohol as long as costs are not recouped through cover charges or other indirect payments.
A few hundred yards away, Club Erotica in McKees Rocks has attracted its own share of attention from law enforcement after a shoot-out at the club’s parking lot left two dead and three wounded on Jan. 29. The club also distributes alcohol without a liquor license.
State police and Allegheny County District Attorney representatives reportedly met with the club’s owner and manager several days later, however, the DA’s office did not investigate further. State Police have not responded to inquiries about the outcome of the meeting or whether an investigation is ongoing.
– Chadwick Dolgos contributed to this report.