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City staff asked to explain definition of ‘performers’ that stopped the music

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FERNDALE, Wash. — A discussion is on the agenda of Wednesday’s Planning and Land Use Council Committee meeting regarding Ferndale’s Building & Fire Code, specifically regarding what is and is not a nightclub business.

City of Ferndale Building Official Kyle Huebner and Ferndale’s Attorney Dannon Traxler are expected to make a presentation at the meeting according to the staff report for the agenda item.

Huebner’s responsibilities include performing building and fire inspections. It was during an October 2018 fire inspection at The Main Street Bar & Grill at 2005 Main Street that Huebner declared the business a “nightclub” by building code definition and thereby required to have a fire suppression sprinkler system; an action that put an end to years of live music performances there.

Huebner was applying RCW 19.27.510 when he made that decision.

“Nightclub” means an A-2 occupancy use under the 2006 international building code in which the aggregate area of concentrated use of unfixed chairs and standing space that is specifically designated and primarily used for dancing or viewing performers exceeds three hundred fifty square feet, excluding adjacent lobby areas. “Nightclub” does not include theaters with fixed seating, banquet halls, or lodge halls.

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According to RCW 19.27.500, businesses identified as a nightclub are required to be equipped with an automatic sprinkler system.

According to documents provided to the owner by Huebner after the fire code inspection, The Main Street Bar & Grill was informed that “no concerts or dancing or listening to music from a DJ” could take place until the building was equipped with an automatic fire suppression sprinkler system. The owner appealed the finding which allowed performances to continue until a hearing on the appeal could be held

In the meantime, the business changed ownership, the appeal by the previous owner was dropped and there have been no live music performances since February 1st. According to a spokesperson for the owner, they continue to hope they will be able to install what is estimated to be an $80,000 sprinkler system.

Councilmember, Planning and Land Use Committee member and candidate for mayor Keith Olson says he asked to have the discussion specifically regarding the definition of “performers” as used in RCW 19.27.510. Olson said during a phone interview, “It is very unclear what they mean by ‘performers.’ It could be performers on TV like sports teams or a flute player or even a mime.” Olson said the law is not clear about what it is trying to address.

According to RCW 19.27.040, cities are allowed to modify their versions of the state building code but only if doing so makes it more restrictive, not less.

In preparation for Wednesday’s meeting, a city staff report was included in the agenda packet explaining the city’s confidence in their decision saying the state building code as adopted is “clear and firm.” The staff report is included below in its entirety.

cof-staff-report-nightclubs-building-code-2019-05-24

Wednesday’s Planning and Land Use Council Committee meeting is scheduled for 9am in the main conference room at City Hall, 2095 Main Street. Committee meetings are open meetings and the public is welcome to attend.

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1 COMMENT

  1. `The total stage and dancing area at the Main Street Bar and Grill is less than 350 square feet, the adjacent spaces are carpeted, with tables and chairs in those areas, with the exception of the pool tables at the back of the business. That there was a determination that the business should be categorized as a nightclub under the specified code is something that I did not understand at the time, and am still confused about. 350 square feet is a larger than a football field, the entire business is less than that size.
    Ferndale does not seem to have any entertainment options for residents who enjoy listening to music and dancing while spending time with friends anymore, driving down Main St after 9pm is almost like driving through a ghost town. There used to be a thriving nightlife here, even if only on weekends, it seems a shame that that no longer exists.

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