While aspiring brewers, distillers and chefs are buying and overhauling properties in areas like Braddock, Millvale and Carnegie, one East End neighborhood has remained untouched.
That’s not entirely the neighborhood’s fault—Wikinsburg has been a dry town since 1870.
No, that’s not a typo; the neighborhood just east of Pittsburgh’s city limits hasn’t had an establishment with a liquor license since Ulysses S. Grant was president, Vladimir Lenin was an infant and professional baseball didn’t yet exist.
Perhaps just as impressive, the alcohol ban has only been challenged once, and that was back in 1935, just two years after the repeal of Prohibition. Now, Tracey Evans of the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation thinks lifting the booze ban could help jumpstart Wilkinsburg’s commercial economy.
“We have a good group of people involved in this,” Evans says. “We’re getting to be in a really great place with interest in Wilkinsburg and the businesses moving in.”
In order for Wilkinsburg to lift the booze ban and jump from the 19th century directly into the 21st, a petition the CDC is circulating in the community needs to collect 1,059 signatures. That will allow for the issue to go on the ballot as a referendum for the May 19 primary election.
“There are so many great little restaurants in the East End and we’re right next door,” Evans says. “It’d be a great way to get people interested and coming into Wilkinsburg.”
If residents wind up voting to lift the ban, Wilkinsburg, with its convenient location, reasonable real estate prices and need for economic development, could become the next target for Pittsburgh’s food and drink industry.