Church buys nearby nuisance bar to create change in Allegheny Center community



A Pittsburgh bar was deemed a nuisance for decades. Prostitution, drug sales and other criminal activity all took place right near a church. That church, Allegheny Center Alliance Church took an unusual leap to make a difference in its north side community. You can even call it radical. Back in 2007, business owners and residents complained that excessive crime associated with the local bars was destroying their neighborhood and business district.One bar in particular was the kingpin: Rebels Bar.“When rebels bar was here, it was a rowdy bar,” said Bruce Klein, who owned Bernie’s Photo Center, “You had people hanging out on the streets.”Barbara Burns, the owner of Sweet Time General Store, was so fed up she led a neighborhood push to have the bar stripped of its liquor license and shut down after it was declared a nuisance bar.She still has a stack of legal documents from Commonwealth Court. And there are documents that detail testimony at liquor control enforcement public hearings against Rebels Bar.“I’ve watched people walk out of that bar with blood running down their head, get in their car, try to run people over,” Burns said. Some of the testimony at the LCE hearings came from Pittsburgh police crime prevention community relations. 1998 and 1999, police say there were 34 911 calls about Rebels Bar. Police made 10 arrests.Each time the bar changed ownership within the family, its track record was wiped clean and it remained open.“What he was trying to do in our view was eliminate the citation history,” Burns said.That’s when Allegheny Center Alliance Church came into the picture. Executive Pastor Blaine Workman led the church on a bold initiative to shut down the bar.“We asked people on this street, ‘How can we be a blessing to this neighborhood?’ They said, ‘Help us close Rebels Bar,” Workman told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4. So in 2009, the church bought the bar and its liquor license $200,000, then they shut it down immediately.“When you think about bringing blessing to this community for god’s glory, this was a step that made sense, and it’s had an impact,” Workman said.Rebels Bar sat at 510 East Ohio St., but it was torn down.“Today, Allegheny City Brewery uses the space to provide free music on weekends. East Ohio Street has taken on a new look since the demolition of Rebels Bar.“Until you eliminated that problem, no one was going to come in and invest here,” Workman said, “No one wanted to be part of the community.”“Now you have a whole new crop of businesses coming in,” Klein said. “You have restaurants coming in, you have people that will come down to the North Side that have never been here before.”

A Pittsburgh bar was deemed a nuisance for decades. Prostitution, drug sales and other criminal activity all took place right near a church. That church, Allegheny Center Alliance Church took an unusual leap to make a difference in its north side community. You can even call it radical.

Back in 2007, business owners and residents complained that excessive crime associated with the local bars was destroying their neighborhood and business district.

One bar in particular was the kingpin: Rebels Bar.

“When rebels bar was here, it was a rowdy bar,” said Bruce Klein, who owned Bernie’s Photo Center, “You had people hanging out on the streets.”

Barbara Burns, the owner of Sweet Time General Store, was so fed up she led a neighborhood push to have the bar stripped of its liquor license and shut down after it was declared a nuisance bar.

She still has a stack of legal documents from Commonwealth Court. And there are documents that detail testimony at liquor control enforcement public hearings against Rebels Bar.

“I’ve watched people walk out of that bar with blood running down their head, get in their car, try to run people over,” Burns said.

Some of the testimony at the LCE hearings came from Pittsburgh police crime prevention community relations. 1998 and 1999, police say there were 34 911 calls about Rebels Bar. Police made 10 arrests.

Each time the bar changed ownership within the family, its track record was wiped clean and it remained open.

“What he was trying to do in our view was eliminate the citation history,” Burns said.

That’s when Allegheny Center Alliance Church came into the picture. Executive Pastor Blaine Workman led the church on a bold initiative to shut down the bar.

“We asked people on this street, ‘How can we be a blessing to this neighborhood?’ They said, ‘Help us close Rebels Bar,” Workman told Pittsburgh’s Action News 4.

So in 2009, the church bought the bar and its liquor license $200,000, then they shut it down immediately.

“When you think about bringing blessing to this community for god’s glory, this was a step that made sense, and it’s had an impact,” Workman said.

Rebels Bar sat at 510 East Ohio St., but it was torn down.

“Today, Allegheny City Brewery uses the space to provide free music on weekends. East Ohio Street has taken on a new look since the demolition of Rebels Bar.

“Until you eliminated that problem, no one was going to come in and invest here,” Workman said, “No one wanted to be part of the community.”

“Now you have a whole new crop of businesses coming in,” Klein said. “You have restaurants coming in, you have people that will come down to the North Side that have never been here before.”