Local bar condemned, re-opened 4 days later

By Lindsey Salvatelli

DeKALB — The city received a good deal of backlash for the way it handled emergency repairs needed at Lord Stanley’s Bar and The Annex, 142 E. Lincoln Highway, and the condemnation of Common Grounds, 150 E. Lincoln Highway.

Fire Prevention Officer Lynch William and Chief Building Official Thaddeus Mack had a Fire Life Safety inspection scheduled April 5 for Lord Stanley’s. After spending two hours in the building, city officials scheduled a time to return the following day during the business’ closed hours.

William and Mack returned Friday to inspect Lord Stanley’s basement where they found an “extent of significant property maintenance concerns,” and there were “large areas of organic growth, including areas where food was stored,” said Jo Ellen Charlton, Community Development Director. She said there were also sanitation concerns in other areas of the establishment as well as asbestos.

Mack presented images of Lord Stanley’s basement, which shows a rat trap near a cooler and unused pizza boxes in shrink wrap laying in an area on the floor with what Mack believes could be asbestos.

Charlton said owners of the property began to make emergency improvements to the building during the weekend, which led to discussions about how soon the condemnation could be lifted. Inspectors returned to the building Monday and found the building to be in compliance with building codes and a condemnation was not necessary.

The Annex’s safety concerns stemmed from the building’s structural integrity where the inspectors had worries about the first floor hazards to occupants. Mack said some of the nails holding posts had been rusted through, and the first floor’s support beams were showing signs of weakness.

Charlton said she didn’t expect the building to be closed because most of the concerns inspectors had could be easily fixed, such as placing fire extinguishers and smoke detectors throughout the building.

“While the notices did include language that the condemnation could be occurring on Monday, we didn’t really expect that to happen because these are things the owner was informed of and that could be easily fixable,” Charlton said.

The city inspectors did not begin to inspect Common Grounds until after 4 p.m. Friday evening, and the city must first meet with a building engineer before determining how much time should be granted to Bill Valos, owner of the building that houses The Annex and Common Ground, to fix structural concerns.

Charlton said the city is not attempting to redevelop the property.

“We want to make buildings safe,” Charlton said. “We may be doing it differently than we having in the past, but that is in response to feedback from the community and you, our elected officials.”

The building’s threat of condemnation received criticism from residents who thought city official’s approach to closing the structure was abrupt and without proper notice.

Mayor Jerry Smith proposed the idea of dedicating an entire Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss how to handle building condemnation and code enforcements.

“Making that decision, I was putting public safety above all else,” Smith said.

DeKalb residentHoward Solomon said he was disappointed in city officials’ lack of empathy.

“The way this was handled, without giving people notice, or providing people with alternatives, without actually completing an engineering study saying there actually were safety hazards is the way I would not want a city to act,” Solomon said.

Smith said he was well aware of the impact condemning the structure would have on the two businesses, as well as residents who live in the building.

“I remain steadfast that we tried to do the right thing,” Smith said.