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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

New Mexican restaurant in Beechview seeking crowd-sourced loan funds

Posted By on Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 5:06 PM

Demetrio Aragon (right) and his family inside the La Catrina kitchen - PHOTO COURTESY OF DEMTRIO ARAGON
  • Photo courtesy of Demtrio Aragon
  • Demetrio Aragon (right) and his family inside the La Catrina kitchen
In May 2016, City Paper reported about the economic revitalization of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood and the role Latino residents were playing. The South Hills neighborhood had been marked by several vacancies in its business district for decades, but over the last few years, Latino entrepreneurs have been opening up restaurants and other businesses, bringing vitality back to the neighborhood.

Recently, La Catrina, a new Mexican restaurant joined the ranks, and the owners are looking for a little help so they can improve their operations and offerings. Demetrio Aragon and his family have lived in the Pittsburgh area since 2000. Aragon worked in Japanese restaurants until one day his wife convinced him that the family should open up a restaurant to serve the traditional Mexican dishes they had trouble finding in Pittsburgh.

“My wife, it was her idea,” says Aragon. “She saw the Hispanic population growing, and that there was a need for real food. We serve sopes, and tamales, but not like some I see here that are served unwrapped. We wrap ours up [in a corn husk]. That is the way it is supposed to be done.”

Aragon says the restaurant, which occupies a space across the street from the IGA/Las Palmas grocery store on Broadway Avenue, has been open for more than three months, but the place still needs a griddle, refrigerator and mixer to become fully functional. Aragon, with help from the Beechview-based Pittsburgh Hispanic Development Corporation, is trying to secure a crowd-sourced loan through kiva.org. As of print, La Catrina’s loan is 94 percent funded with only $550 left to reach its $10,000 goal, with only three days remaining to contribute.

“We just need some equipment,” says Aragon. “It’s just me and my wife and daughters. We don’t have investors.”

Ashleigh Deemer, chief of staff to Pittsburgh City Councilor Natalia Rudiak, wrote in an email to CP that La Catrina deserves a little support, so that Beechview can continue to grow economically. "Beechview has been a hidden gem for years, but Broadway Avenue's small-business culture is really taking off, and La Catrina is a perfect destination for anyone who wants to visit and see all Beechview has to offer," she wrote.

Aragon and his family live in Dormont, but choose Beechview to cater to the neighborhood’s growing Latino population. Aragon is from the Álvaro Obregón district of Mexico City (the same district as deported immigrant-rights activist Martín Esquivel-Hernandez), and he says there is a big opportunity in Pittsburgh for ultra-authentic Mexican food because there aren’t many authentic Mexican restaurants.

La Catrina specializes in many hard-to-find Mexican recipes, all crafted by Aragon’s wife, Angelica. La Catrina offers chilaquiles (deep-fried tortillas bathed in chili sauce), lamb barbacoa (and a soup made from all the lamb’s juices), and sopes (a corn masa dumpling typically topped with slow-cooked meats, lettuce and avocado).

Aragon says that all of La Catrina's traditional Mexican recipes are made from scratch, including all of the chili sauces that covers most dishes. La Catrina offers Tex-Mex food as well, but not all of those items are scratch-made.

Aragon says that La Catrina's clientele has mostly been Latinos looking for a taste of home, but many native-born Americans have also eaten there. He hopes that La Catrina will be a restaurant welcoming to everyone.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Pittsburgh Penguins announce Stanley Cup victory parade route

Posted By on Mon, Jun 12, 2017 at 4:25 PM

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup championship parade, 2016. - CP PHOTO BY LUKE THOR TRAVIS
  • CP photo by Luke Thor Travis
  • Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup championship parade, 2016.
There were catfish on the ice, an alleged claim of halitosis and some up-and-down goal keeping, but the Pittsburgh Penguins still emerged victorious in the Stanley Cup Finals. On June 11, the Pens defeated the somewhat stupidly named Nashville Predators by a score of 2-0, winning the series in six games.

This is the second straight Stanley Cup for the Penguins, and city and Allegheny County officials want to celebrate with you Downtown. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto's office sent a press release indicating the Pens championship parade will be held on Wednesday, June 14 at 11 a.m. in Downtown.

The parade route will begin at the intersection of Grant Street and Liberty Avenue, traveling down Grant Street to Boulevard of the Allies. From there, the route will head down Boulevard of the Allies toward Point State Park, where it will terminate. A stage will be set up on Point State Park's lawn (the one closest to the city streets), where Penguins personnel and players will give celebratory remarks.

City of Pittsburgh Public Works employees will be setting up barriers beginning Tue., June 13, in the evening and during the following morning. Road closures will being at 9 a.m. on Wed., June 14.  

Pittsburgh officials advise parade watchers to wear warm-weather, waterproof attire and bring plenty of water, as Wednesday's forecast predicts a high of 84 degrees, high humidity and possible thunderstorms.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bike-advocacy group encourages Pittsburghers to ride bikes to work on Friday

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 4:58 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Bike Pittsburgh
Cyclists in and around the city must feel a little vindicated. In a Pittsburgh mayoral race in which candidates blamed bike lanes (which account for a minuscule fraction of the city budget) for the city’s lead-water-pipe problems, public-safety issues, and a shortage of affordable housing, the one candidate who was pro-bike-lane, Mayor Bill Peduto, emerged victorious, with about 69 percent of the vote.

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Author discusses "sex between straight white men" tomorrow at the University of Pittsburgh

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 4:17 PM

  • University of California, Riverside
  • Jane Ward

University of California, Riverside Professor Jane Ward visits Pitt tomorrow to discuss her highly controversial book Not Gay: Sex Between Straight White Men.

Almost 70 years after Alfred Kinsey and his Institute gave us the Kinsey Scale, Ward’s 2015 book sheds light on how straight-identified men explain the reality of their sexual fluidity. It turns out that for a lot of the men Ward interviewed, it’s not "gay" if the gay sex you’re having reaffirms rather than challenges your masculine identity.

Tomorrow, Ward gives a lecture on her research, titled "The Tragedy of Heterosexuality," from 4-5 p.m. in the Cathedral of Learning. The lecture is presented by Pitt's Gender and Sexuality Program and is free and open to the public.

The talk takes place in Room 602. The Cathedral of Learning is located at 4200 Fifth Ave., Oakland.

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Pittsburgh’s National Day of Action for Immigrant Rights draws a rally for local undocumented immigrant

Posted By on Fri, Jan 13, 2017 at 5:39 PM

  • Image courtesy of United We Dream
On Jan. 14, immigrant-rights groups will be gathering in their respective cities across the country to protest President-elect Donald Trump and his campaign promises to carry out mass deportations. Demonstrations are planned in at least 20 states as part of national immigrant-rights group United We Dream’s #HereToStay campaign.

In Pittsburgh, ralliers will gather in Beechview to protest not only Trump’s campaign promises and the practices of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, but also the in-process deportation of one of the city’s undocumented immigrants, Martín Esquivel-Hernandez.

“Tomorrow people are going to stand with immigrants and refugees and stand with Martín Esquivel-Hernandez,” says Christina Castillo of the advocacy group the Thomas Merton Center. “Because he was a community leader and father, and this is the time to tell ICE that Martin belongs here in Pittsburgh.”

Esquivel-Hernandez is currently in ICE custody in the Seneca County Jail in Northwest Ohio. ICE officials told City Paper last week that they intend to deport him, even though he accepted a plea deal to lower his felony re-entry charge to a misdemeanor, had no prior criminal record other than minor traffic violations, has a young family (including a U.S. citizen son), and has been an advocate for Pittsburgh’s Latino community.

Castillo says she expects more than 100 protesters to join in and they will recreate the last immigrant-rights march that Esquivel-Hernandez took before he was detained by ICE in May 2016. They will stop the march the last place he was photographed, because “we can't continue this march without Martín,” says Castillo. “We will only march a short distance in the hopes that he will be able to rejoin us the next time.”

For those interested in attending, the rally will start at 2:30 p.m. on Jan. 14 at St. Catherine of Siena Church at 1810 Belasco Ave. in Beechview. Castillo says for those unable to attend, they can do their part by calling the office Detroit ICE Field Office Director Rebecca Adducci at 313-568-6036 and request she practice “prosecutorial discretion” and release Esquivel-Hernandez.

Esquivel-Hernandez’s wife, Alma Brigido, will be speaking in Detroit on Jan. 14 in hopes to be reunited with her husband. ICE has hinted that Esquivel-Hernandez could be deported sometime next week.

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Community-led business incubator to launch in Wilkinsburg

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2017 at 2:51 PM

  • Image courtesy of New Sun Rising
While to outsiders Wilkinsburg is mostly known for its problems with crime (most notably the mass shooting that happened there last spring), those who live in the community see many of the positive things happening in the borough. New shops have moved into town over the last couple years and the borough is planning a big restoration of their old train station.

And to capitalize on this momentum, New Sun Rising, an organization specializing in community-based business incubators, is opening a 12-month long business incubator called Launch Wilkinsburg in partnership with the Wilkinsburg Chamber of Commerce. New Sun Rising has had previous success with this model in communities like Pittsburgh’s North Side, as well as Millvale.

“Together, our work will activate the self-identified priorities of community members,” said New Sun Rising director Scott Wolovich in a press release, “while inspiring creativity, fostering innovation, and strengthening networks within Wilkinsburg.”

Launch Wilkinsburg will provide people looking to start businesses in the borough access to experts and consultants, connections to partners, potential funding opportunities all in a physical space. The incubator, to be located at 900 Wood Street,  will also include teams of residents who will guide businesses on how to best impact the community, with an emphasis on improving community engagement, vacant lots, Main Street development, the arts and culture.

“I believe now is a great time to invest in Wilkinsburg,” said Wilkinsburg Chamber of Commerce president Yvonne James in a press release. “As we watch our community revitalize it is exciting to see a new generation of folks ‘reinventing’ our business district while still preserving our beautiful architecture and realize small walkable business districts are the new norm and are anxious to be a part of this great affordable change.”

Interested parties are encouraged to apply to the year-long program before the deadline on Jan. 18 at 11:59 p.m. To submit an application and learn more about the program, please visit the Launch Wilkinsburg website.

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Friday, December 30, 2016

Don't forget: Port Authority fare changes start Sun., Jan. 1

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 10:49 AM

Grab your free connect card before 2016 ends. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Grab your free connect card before 2016 ends.
Starting New Year's Day (Sun., Jan. 1, 2017), there will be a slew of changes coming to how riders pay for and ride on Port Authority of Allegheny County buses and light-rail cars. Most riders have probably been reminded hundreds of times by the media, Port Authority advertisements and bus drivers themselves, but Pittsburgh City Paper thought it prudent to offer one final reminder.

Also, Fri., Dec. 30, and Sat., Dec. 31, are the last days to get a free ConnectCard at the Downtown Port Authority Service Center at 534 Smithfield St., participating Giant Eagle grocery stores and a lots of other locations. ConnectCards will cost $1 starting Jan. 1, 2017. And you'll want to have one, because the cash fare is rising from $2.50 to $2.75; ConnectCard users will pay $2.50.

Since the $3.75 Zone 2 fare charge is being scrapped and all fares will be $2.75 or less, the changes should provide a boost to some suburban riders who rely on the bus to get around. And there are also some policy changes that could help riders with disabilities.

All the changes are outlined below:


  • $2.50 fare throughout whole system if using ConnectCard
  • $2.75 cash fare
  • $1 transfers using ConnectCard only (cash users will have to pay $2.75 again if transferring)
  • $1 fee to purchase new ConnectCards
  • 7-day pass available for purchase
  • Half-fare passes for people with disabilities will be available on ConnectCards, as will reduced-fare child passes eventually.
  • Pay-as-you-enter on all routes
  • Exit through back door(s) on all routes. (Riders unable to use back door can exit at front.)
  • Elimination of the Downtown free zone for bus rides. (Light-rail will still be free Downtown and to the North Shore.)
  • Suburban light-rail riders will operate on a honor system and will tap cards either in car or on receptacles on stations, starting July 2017.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

UPDATE: Pittsburgh undocumented immigrant accepts plea deal, now in ICE custody

Posted By on Wed, Dec 28, 2016 at 6:05 PM

Advocates for Martin Esquivel-Hernandez outside the Federal Building, Dowtown - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Advocates for Martin Esquivel-Hernandez outside the Federal Building, Dowtown
Updated 11 a.m. 12/29: U.S. Judge Donetta Ambrose of the Western District of Pennsylvania has accepted the plea agreement of Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and Pittsburgh resident currently facing deportation, which downgrades his charge to misdemeanor illegal possession of an identification document. He was initially charged with felony illegal re-entry, and if convicted of that charge, his deportation would be almost automatic.

In courtroom 3B inside the federal courthouse, Downtown, Esquivel-Hernandez pleaded guilty to the charge and was sentenced to 89 days incarceration, which will be considered time-served because he has spent the last eight months in detention, and no fine or supervised release will be imposed. Esquivel-Hernandez's lawyer, Sally Frick, said at the hearing that this misdemeanor charge and sentence of less than 90 days gives him a good chance at avoiding deportation.

"[Esquivel-Hernandez] knows he has immigration consequences upcoming," said Frick to Judge Ambrose. "So it's necessary for him to have only a misdemeanor and less than a 90 day sentence."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Hull, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the U.S. government, agreed not to oppose the recommendation of lessening the charge to a misdemeanor and sentencing Esquivel-Hernandez to less than 90 days. Esquivel-Hernandez pleaded guilty to intentionally using another man's VISA document when he attempted to cross the border in Nogales, Ariz. in December 2011.

Esquivel-Hernandez spoke during the hearing, asking for leniency from Judge Ambrose before she accepted the plea and sentenced him. "I [used an illegal ID] because I needed to be with my family," said a teary-eyed Esquivel-Hernandez in Spanish. "Anyone would do anything, even the impossible, to be with their family."

Ambrose said she accepted the plea and granted a variance to only sentence Esquivel-Hernandez to 89 days because she believed he was telling the truth about his intentions to enter the U.S. and because he has been a positive force in the Pittsburgh community.

"I understand that defrauding the U.S is a serious crime, but I believe its true when [Esquivel-Hernandez] speaks to me, that you are some who is civic minded and loves his family," Ambrose said to Esquivel-Hernandez. "[Esquivel-Hernandez shows] nothing that threatens society in any way. I believe your motives were pure in coming here."

After the sentencing, Esquivel-Hernandez was taken by U.S. Marshals back to the private, for-profit prison in Youngstown, Ohio where he will be handed over to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforce (ICE). ICE will then decide whether to deport Esquivel-Hernandez.

Guillermo Perez, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, has been advocating for Esquivel-Hernandez and said after the hearing that this was a victory made possible by the seven months of advocacy by labor groups, faith leaders and immigrant and Latino activists. But, he added that now the groups supporting Esquivel-Hernandez must turn their attention to ICE.

Perez said that because of Esquivel-Hernandez's lesser conviction and sentence of less than 90 days, he is not a "priority" for deportation, under ICE's current guidelines. ICE has shown they often ignore these guidelines, but Perez said LCLAA will submit a letter to ICE detailing how Esquivel-Hernandez doesn't fit into any category for deportation and will ask the agency to practice prosecutorial discretion and release Esquivel-Hernandez.

"[President Barack Obama's] administration has said it deports felons, not families," said Perez. "Well, [Esquivel-Hernandez] is not a felon and he has a family."

Alma Brigido, Esquivel-Hernandez's wife, was present in the courtroom during the hearing. Together they have three children, including a U.S. citizen son. Brigido said in Spanish through a translator, that she felt good about the result of the hearing, because "in a way it is good news."

She is still worried about what ICE will do concerning Esquivel-Hernandez, but is not giving up the fight to keep Esquivel-Hernandez in Pittsburgh. "[Keeping Esquivel-Hernandez] here is something we have to fight for," she said.


On Thu., Dec. 29, Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant and Pittsburgh resident currently facing deportation, hopes to reach a plea deal reached with Western Pennsylvania District U.S. Attorney Soo Song. It will give him a better chance at avoiding deportation, and potentially return him to his family.

Song contacted Esquivel-Hernandez’s lawyer, Sally Frick, the afternoon of Dec. 28 to notify her that the U.S. Attorney’s office was open to negotiating with Esquivel-Hernandez. According to Antonia Domingo, of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), which has been advocating for Esquivel-Hernandez for months, a deal has been reached that would reduce Esquivel-Hernandez’s felony illegal re-entry charge to a misdemeanor, and keep him off the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) “Priority Deportation” list. The plea deal still must be approved by a judge.

Esquivel-Hernandez has been living in Pittsburgh for more than four years, where he has been an advocate for immigrant rights, better Spanish-language service in public schools, and a devout parishioner at two local churches. In May 2016, he was taken by ICE the day after he marched in an immigrants-rights rally in Beechview. Esquivel-Hernandez had traveled more than 5,000 miles to escape gang violence in Mexico City and reunite with his family, who had immigrated to the U.S. in 2012 before him. He has no criminal record beside two minor traffic violations.

News of his potential plea deal was announced on Dec. 28 at a rally in front of the U.S. Courthouse, Downtown, where more than 80 supporters had gathered to call for his release. A previous plea deal was rejected last month by Esquivel-Hernandez because that new charge would have still been a felony, almost guaranteeing his deportation. Guillermo Perez, of LCLAA, said to the crowd that the new plea was a small victory, and that now the advocates must turn their attention to ICE.

ICE still has a detainer on Esquivel-Hernandez, and because he has been deported before, he is not guaranteed an immigration hearing. Kai Pang, of labor coalition Pittsburgh United, who has also taken up advocating for Martin, said that ICE should release Esquivel-Hernandez and return him to his wife and three children (the youngest is a U.S. citizen). Esquivel-Hernandez has been held at a for-profit, private prison in Youngstown, Ohio for more than seven months.

“What a waste of time and resources to try and deport this man who has helped this community so much,” said Pang at the rally. “This is the kind of person we want in this community.”

Mike Saber, a Swissvale resident, came out to support Esquivel-Hernandez because he wants to “make Pittsburgh a better place” and stand up for people being treated unfairly.

“We need to be an inclusive society,” said Saber at the rally. “Where there is injustice, there really cannot be justice.”

If the plea deal is approved by a judge, Esquivel-Hernandez will most likely be taken into ICE custody and possibly deported. Perez said LCLAA plans to submit a prosecutorial discretion letter to ICE that might convince them to free Esquivel-Hernandez. However, Perez notes that ICE has no obligation to release Esquivel-Hernandez and can deport him regardless.

Pang said at the rally that this is why the community must continue to fight for Esquivel-Hernandez's freedom. “We will be out here fighting until [Esquivel-Hernandez] is brought home.”

Margaret Philbin, of the U.S. Attorney's office, said local rules of the court do not allow the office to comment at this time.

According to Domingo, Esquivel-Hernandez's plea hearing is scheduled at 9:15 a.m. on Thu., Dec. 29 at the U.S. Courthouse, 700 Grant Street, Downtown.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Martin Esquivel-Hernandez could be released tomorrow, Dec. 8

Posted By on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 3:39 PM

Martin Esquivel-Hernandez (center) at an immigrant-rights rally the day before he was detained. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Martin Esquivel-Hernandez (center) at an immigrant-rights rally the day before he was detained.
The fate of a Pittsburgh undocumented immigrant facing deportation could all come to a head tomorrow, Dec. 8.

Martin Esquivel-Hernandez, originally from Mexico, was detained in May by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and faces possible deportation after his federal sentencing hearing concludes at the federal courthouse in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Esquivel-Hernandez’s lawyer has negotiated a plea deal for him, that if accepted, could lower his felony re-entry charge to a misdemeanor. Esquivel-Hernandez was detained this year after attempting to enter the country illegally four times between 2011 and 2012. His family had already immigrated to the U.S. and he was attempting to reunite with them.

Since, he has lived in Pittsburgh with his wife for more than four years, where the couple have three children, including his U.S.-born son, who attend public school. He has also become an advocate for Pittsburgh’s Latino community and is active in two local churches.

If his plea deal is accepted, his advocates are hoping ICE will drop the detainer against Esquivel-Hernandez and he could return home directly after his federal hearing concludes at 1:30 p.m.

However, ICE indicated to Pittsburgh City Paper last month that they will not drop Esquivel-Hernandez’s detainer. For this reason, his advocates are calling for supporters to come together and rally outside of the federal courthouse tomorrow to demand that he not be turned over to ICE.

“Martín should have never been detained in the first place,” said Guillermo Perez, president of the Pittsburgh Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), in a press release. “He wasn't a priority for enforcement the day he was taken, and he still isn't a priority under the terms of this plea deal.”

Under the Obama administration, the priorities for deporting undocumented immigrants include being suspected of terrorism plots, involved in gangs,convicted in “aggravated felonies,” and other offenses. Jennifer Williams, Esquivel-Hernandez’s pro-bono immigration attorney says he doesn’t fit into any of the listed priorities.

“If you follow the ICE guidelines, [Esquivel-Hernandez] should not be a priority for removal,” says Williams.

So why was he detained? In April, Esquivel-Hernandez was cited for driving without a valid license by Mount Lebanon police, who then contacted ICE, who felt compelled to detain him because of his multiple re-entries. Also, stats from Syracuse University show that ICE officials consistently ignore the priority guidelines.

If ICE doesn’t drop Esquivel-Hernandez’s detainer, Williams says he could be thrown into the deportation process almost instantly and they will only keep him in custody “long enough to facilitate his removal.” Williams details that this could take a matter of weeks with Esquivel-Hernandez being shipped from detention center to detention center with little notice to his family and representation.

According to Williams, because Esquivel-Hernandez previously received an immigration hearing when he was caught at the border (an extremely expedited process where it’s normal to have 60 to 100 cases prosecuted in one day, according to Carlos Garcia, of the Puente Human Rights Movement, a Phoenix-based migrant-justice group), Esquivel-Hernandez can be removed from the U.S. without seeing an immigration judge.

Regardless, Williams says she will advocate for him to receive an immigration hearing if Esquivel-Hernandez’s ICE detainer isn’t dropped.

“Its very important that ICE give him due consideration,” says Williams. “To really consider the facts. To consider his family and come to a conclusion that this would really hurt a family.”

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Free Parking in Pittsburgh's Strip District for Small Business Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 1:16 PM

  • Image courtesy of Strip District Neighbors
The irony of Small Business Saturday is not lost on us at Pittsburgh City Paper. The event was created by the American Express credit-card company and is sponsored by the company to this day. The shopping day is meant to promote small businesses that make communities unique and support them so that money spent goes directly back to locals. But, since American Express charges businesses more to use its credit cards than Visa or Mastercard, many small businesses don't take American Express.

Nonetheless, the event has grown in popularity since its 2010 inception and the Strip District wants to take advantage of that momentum with one of Pittsburghers' favorite things: free parking.

According to Strip District nonprofit Strip District Neighbor's Twitter feed, all meters in the strip district will be free of charge tomorrow (Nov. 26) for Small Business Saturday. Strip District Neighbors also created a handy deal guide that details more than a dozen sales and deals of participating retailers, restaurants and bars.

Deals include 10 percent off all furniture at boutique furniture store Hot Haute Hot, 10 percent discount on all purchases at Mancini's Bread Co., and $5 off purchase of $25 at Bradley's Book Outlet.

The deals and free parking last all day. Check individual business' websites for their listed hours.

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