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James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy at risk of losing license |

James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy at risk of losing license

| Thursday, July 14, 2016 11:40 p.m
The James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy in the North Side.

Amid the Deutschtown Music Festival last week, James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy had some unexpected guests: officers from the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement.

Someone had called in a noise complaint against the North Side restaurant and music venue — its second in nine months — forcing management to shut down the music. Now, James Street Gastropub, a staple of the Pittsburgh jazz scene, is at risk of losing its liquor license.

To meet state Liquior Control laws, the tavern has to prevent noise from leaving the pre-World War II building by Sept. 1, a complicated and costly task, said Kevin Saftner, 30, general manager and booking agent at James Street. He has set up a page on the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to help raise the $30,000 required to soundproof the space. A “Silent Disco” event is planned July 23.

“The only way we can solve this is by being good neighbors,” Saftner said. He took over the bar in 2011 and said he has worked to bring a diverse array of people to the space.

“We have a drag brunch a couple of times a month, burlesque shows; we host church groups too,” he said, adding, “They’re always on different nights.”

The noise complaint during the music festival came as a surprise, Saftner, bar patrons and some neighbors said Thursday.

“I can actually feel the music through my walls,” said Edward Heal, 64, owner of the home on Foreland Street next to James Street Gastropub. “But I don’t mind it at all.”

Heal has owned the house for 12 years and has used it as an office for his small advertising business. He started living there full time last year. Aside from smokers who throw their cigarettes on the sidewalk outside his house, Heal — a jazz fan — said that the bar and music venue has been a good neighbor.

“An operating business is better than a shuttered business,” Heal said. “This neighborhood needs more jobs.”

Heal added that ambulances and medical helicopters traveling to and from Allegheny General Hospital on the North Side make much more noise.

Tony Spearman, 63, lives in an apartment down the street from the James Street Gastrobpub and works at a church in the area.

“The only problem is parking,” he said. “As far as noise goes, that place is fine,” adding that James Street isn’t more raucous than other area venues.

In the past three years, James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy has received two other citations from state Liquor Control Enforcement: one in 2014 for failing to post a “No Smoking” sign inside the bar, and one in 2015 for excessive noise.

James Street Gastropub is “a good operator,” said Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference, a community development organization. “James Street is making a lot of efforts to resolve this, and I applaud them for that.”.

Max Siegelbaum is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5803 or

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