Man’s Death in Gay Pittsburgh Sauna Puts Focus on Mayor, Owners

A 31-year-old man was found dead at Club Pittsburgh, a gay sauna, on Sunday. Investigators are awaiting toxicology results on the death.

Local media has turned its attention to the club’s owners, the city’s zoning committees, and Pittsburgh’s mayor:

Ravenstahl“Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said political contributions by the owners of Club Pittsburgh were not behind the way the city resolved a zoning cease and desist order against alleged sex-related activity at the club. “Every contributor that has ever given money to me is not given preferential treatment and the story line that continues is unfortunate,” said Ravenstahl. Club Pittsburgh’s Web site refers to nudity and private booths for its male-only clientele. Ravenstahl’s administration said meetings with the owners and the mayor’s chief of staff brought assurances that the club would stop selling sex paraphernalia and hosting go-go dancers. The city didn’t hold follow-up inspections because no further complaints were filed. ‘Nothing here was done inappropriately. As I said before, and I’ll say it again, it’s unfortunate that in this case it was once again suggested that it had something to do with the actions that were taken,’ said Ravenstahl.”

83700l22_160The Post-Gazette, which Wednesday asked if the city looked the other way after complaints about sexual activity at the club, today profiled the club’s owners, who reportedly have held many political fundraisers including one for Ravenstahl:

“In a posting on, Mr. Karlovich defended himself and his partner, saying the city’s complaints about his club were based on factual errors and minor violations that were later corrected. ‘We have done nothing wrong. We love this city and our community,’ he wrote. ‘We will continue to do what we can to improve this city as a whole and our gay community in particular.’ Mr. Karlovich also expressed sorrow for the death of Cleophus Pettway, 31, of Youngstown, Ohio, whose body was found in a private room at Club Pittsburgh. He said the club’s Web site,, would provide information about helping Mr. Pettway’s family raise money for funeral expenses. The Allegheny County medical examiner’s office was waiting for the results of toxicology tests and had not determined a cause of death.”

The Club’s website has posted a note of condolence for the man’s family and friends.

Club Pittsburgh’s owners often open their home for philanthropic events [post-gazette]
City Officials Voice Concerns After Man’s Death [wpxi]
Ravenstahl Addresses Club Pittsburgh, Political Contributions From Owners [msnbc]
Did city look the other way on racy Strip District club? [post-gazette]
Club Pittsburgh [site]


  1. says

    I live in Pittsburgh, and this is turning into a huge scandal. The owners of Club Pittsburgh are these millionaires who happen to be a couple and are actually claiming that the bathouse is in fact not a bath house. They do hold dozens of charity events at their 10,000 sqft mansion that overlooks the city of Pittsburgh. they are good guys but because one guy dies from what most likely will be a drug overdose, they are on display. Sad.

  2. J says

    I’m not sure I understand the controversy. Were any of the complaints safety complaints against the sauna? If not, why would someone dying there be a result of lax enforcement of zoning or sexually oriented business laws?

    Of course, if this was drug related and the drugs were obtained on the property, there could be other issues of enforcement, but drugs didn’t appear to be what people were complaining about either.

  3. nycsexclub says

    NY law prohibits sex clubs, too, but somehow the West Side Club and the East Side Club in NYC have continued to operate for years with full knowledge by city officials. Funny how some sex clubs get shut down, and others remain open. I do not understand the seemingly inconsistent standards in law enforcement.

  4. anon says

    Liability is simply the means to the ends of those that want to close the place down. There is nothing rational about it. City officials want to show everyone that they are in charge and that it won’t happen again.

  5. KJ says

    A little premature to be labeling someone a “victim,” isn’t it? Maybe once tox screens are back or an autopsy shows foul play.

  6. says

    The patron’s death (sad, however it occurred) seems to be one of the least suspicious things in this story. More suspicious is the person (apparently female) who supposedly “went in seeking a health club” and wasn’t stopped before she witnessed porn and live sex acts. Hmmm . . . Then there’s all the dancing around what occurs in a gay sauna by the various attorneys. (The aim isn’t to encourage sex! Yeah, right.) It’s unfortunate that all parties involved can’t simply acknowledge that this is a private gay sex club (one that either complies with zoning or doesn’t) and then put that aside when deciding whether the owners bear any responsibility for Mr. Pettway’s death. Sex can make adults so irrational.

  7. dego says

    Like Jeff in post #1, I live in Pittsburgh.
    Sex is not illegal in Pittsburgh (ask any of the married men that responded to my recent personal ad). But, Sex-clubs are heavily regulated and frowned upon, if not outright illegal. (I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know the exact legality).

    Sadly this overwhelming interest in Club Pittsburgh and the goings on there is not at all about Mr Pettiway’s death, whatever the cause.

    His Death is being used as a stick with which to beat the owners of CP into a bigger stick with which the Mayor and other high profile local politicians can be bludgeoned.

    The fictitious woman complainant that started this ball rolling several months ago was the first salvo in an attempt by certain ambitious local politicos to embarrass Mayor Ravenstahl with his association with a public gay couple that gasp! owns a sex club! This is puritanical Pennsylvania, after all. there are regular stories about straight swingers’ clubs being shut down, even ones way out in the boonies.

    Fortunately at that time, the sky-rocketing gas prices and other news stories left little space for it to be noticed.

    UNFORTUNATELY, now in the post-holiday news-doldrums, this death has allowed it to be re-visited. But its not about the death. it is about the fact that the owners of CP held fundraisers for certain friendly politicians and not others (oddly enough more conservative, maybe even one might say, Republican, politicians). This is their “crime”; and that is why the un-funded politicians are trying to punish them, while simultaneously using it to attack their political betters.

  8. James Poppinga says

    As Joan Rivers says “Oh Grow Up”. Who cares if there is sex and drugs on the premise except up tight assholes. People are responsible for their own actions, good or bad, not the owners. Keep government out of our sex lives. Up hold fire safety rules and then back off.

  9. Jimmy K says

    And the city wonders why they can never attract gay people to Pittsburgh. They need to stop the harrassment of these owners.

  10. Jimmy K says

    And the city wonders why they can never attract gay people to Pittsburgh. They need to stop the harrassment of these owners.

  11. says

    Definitely sounds like somebody trying to make something out of nothing. Not to say that this guy dying is nothing, just that his dying in a sauna/sex club is most likely just a coincidence. What, did someone fuck him to death? No, he probably overdosed or had a heart attack or something that would have happened even if he had been at home or in church or sleeping under a bridge or …. Would it be made into such a big deal if a straight guy died while jacking off in a booth at a video store owned by straight people?