courtesy of the Ground Zero Action Network]
 
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Sera Swan is the proprietor of Backward on Forward.  You may know her, 
I do. Because she has been inviting artists to perform at openings, 
she has taken tons of flack from the owner of a neighboring business, 
a bar.  She's now being forced to appear at a zoning commission 
hearing to ask for a special exception to allow live entertainment 
during her art openings.  It appears that some of those slated to 
appear at the hearing are under the impression that she is running an 
illegal bottle club, and may testify to that effect. If that happens, 
I'm guessing that will have a significant negative impact on her 
application for the special exception. I've personally attended an 
event at Sera's business, there was nothing illegal nor illicit 
about it, and I plan on showing up tomorrow to testify on her behalf.  
If this is any indication, it would appear that this bottle club 
issue is in fact fast turning into a means of political leverage 
against what are quite legitimate businesses, and not against actual 
nuisance operations as was the claim of the folks who backed this 
ballot measure.  It would be great if there was any way to round up 
a large turnout on Sera's behalf, I'd presume that it'd be a surprise 
to folks planning to testify against Sera if they were to walk into 
a packed room.
 
Hearing is being held tomorrow, Thursday, June 20, 8:45am at 200 
Ross Street, 1st floor.her case is the first one on the zoning docket.
 
-Pat Clark
 
I'll second Pat's statements - Backward on Forward is definitely NOT a 
bottle club, but a very nice vintage store and gallery forced to curtail 
and cancel activities (Manny Theiner was booking experimental artists into 
The space, until this mess happened) because of a hostile business and 
apparently compliant political machine. Seems like the last thing this city 
should be doing is making it HARDER for young entrepreneurs to go about their 
business, which is exactly what it's doing. Stores like Sera's, along with 
venues like The Shadow Lounge and The Quiet Storm, are vital and necessary 
components of the urban fabric. Think of them as Culture Development 
Laboratories, greenhouses where artists can demonstrate their work, 
collaborate, experiment with new forms (see item #5 below), and build 
audiences. It's time that archaic zoning laws (and Pittsburgh politics-as-usual) 
were abandoned for something which actually works in the 21st century. 
What's the opposite of a "friction-free" business/political climate? Whatever 
the Right phrase might be, this is a clear example of it; both a small 
woman-owned business and The Culture Industry (you can also read that 
as "an essential component of quality of life for young people") are being
damaged in the process.
 
-Jason Simmons