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Club Laga: Will the rock still roll there?

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

By John Hayes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

The manager of Oakland's Club Laga has taken preliminary steps to buy the Forbes Avenue building that contains the concert hall with the intention of turning it into apartments.

Ron Levick of Shadyside, the manager of Club Laga, The Attic and The Upstage, all located at 3609 Forbes Ave., is scheduled to appear before the Pittsburgh Zoning Board of Adjustment on Thursday to appeal for a zoning variance that would make the building conducive to a new life as an apartment building. Levick says his bid for the building, owned by 3609 Forbes Avenue Assoc., will be contingent upon approval of the variance.

"I'm trying to buy the building," he said. "My intentions were to eventually turn it into office space or apartments."

Levick has been involved with the circa 1898 building since 1992, when he began managing The Attic nightclub. In 1996 he opened Club Laga as a concert hall and dance club, and in 2000 took over management of The Upstage club. Five other retail tenants occupy space in the building.

A spokeswoman from the Zoning Board confirmed that the intention of the variance appeal was to turn the club into dwelling units.

The building is currently zoned to accommodate the nightclubs, and Levick pays the city for the 54 parking spaces required for the four floors that he manages. At the hearing, he says, he'll ask for a parking variance to reduce his parking-space responsibility to 17 spots.

Levick's intentions come at a time when Pittsburgh's club-level concert business is struggling. Last week, when the 1,200-seat Metropol was closed, its current owner said that pending final sale the new management would probably not book concerts. Club Laga, which holds upward of 800 people and focuses on rock shows, is the city's last remaining venue capable of and suitable for holding concerts of that style and size. Levick says the market for those concerts is floundering.

"You can't survive on concerts," he said, "especially when we're doing so many all-ages shows. The other day [at Laga] Spiritualized drew 411 people. The bar did $230 in sales. I lost money on the show. That's just an example. The concert industry is in trouble. We're going to have to start charging a convenience fee for people under 21 because the shows they're attracted to don't make money for the clubs. Even on the nightclub side, some nights are on and some nights are off."

In the short run, however, Club Laga has picked up many of the rescheduled Metropol shows. Levick says the venue has about 50 shows booked in the next 60 days.

John Hayes can be reached at or 412-263-1991.

Correction/Clarification: (Published Oct. 22, 2003) The band Spiritualized performs at 8 tonight at Club Laga, Oakland. A story yesterday incorrectly reported that the performance was last week.

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