Real estate broker sues over lost dough after deal to sell Beto’s pizzeria falls flat

The owner of Beto’s, one of Pittsburgh’s oldest and most well-known pizzerias, planned to sell the restaurant last year for $2.1 million before taking the property off the market.

Now, a year later, the broker who found a potential buyer in a Las Vegas attorney, is suing the shop’s owner to recover the lost commission.

According to the lawsuit filed last week in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, Beto’s owner, James H. Van Newkirk, entered into a contract with Keller Williams Realty on Feb. 23, 2023, to sell the property at 1473 Banksville Road in Beechview.

Beto’s has been in Van Newkirk’s family since 1961. The pizza, which comes with a mound of cold, freshly shredded provolone cheese on it after it is baked, is a local institution.

According to the lawsuit, Keller Williams was to be paid a 5% commission for the sale price, totaling $105,000, in exchange for finding a buyer.

The company was hired to develop a market strategy, list the property, vet prospective buyers and then sell the property, the complaint said. Van Newkirk worked with Keller Williams’ Bethel Park office.

Keller Williams used an “aggressive national campaign” that was successful in finding several prospective buyers, the suit said, including Damian R. Sheets, a Las Vegas attorney.

He arranged to see the property and was planning to move to Pittsburgh to operate the business, the lawsuit said.

“The day before Mr. Sheets was scheduled to arrive in Pittsburgh, Mr. Van Newkirk pulled the business and associated property from the market for the stated reason that his family didn’t want him to sell it,” the lawsuit said.

But under the contract between Keller Williams and Van Newkirk, the payment of the broker fee was still required even if a sale didn’t occur based on the listed price of the property and if there was a “ready, willing and able buyer,” found by the broker, according to the lawsuit.

As part of the process with Keller Williams, the complaint said, they discussed succession planning for the Newkirk family prior to executing the contract.

On Friday, Van Newkirk, 68, of Castle Shannon, said he decided not to sell after a family meeting. His two daughters, son and son-in-law all work there.

“I guess I did things backward,” he said.

Sheets did not return a message seeking comment.

The lawsuit’s claims include breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation.

Paula Reed Ward is a TribLive reporter covering federal and Allegheny County courts. She joined the Trib in 2019 after spending nearly 17 years at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where she was part of a Pulitzer Prize-winning team. She is the author of “Death by Cyanide.” She can be reached at

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