Touch Supper Club told to acquire proper permits
by Chuck Hoven
(Plain Press, October 2007) The Touch Supper Club, 2710 Lorain Avenue, came before the Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals on September 5, 2007 to unsuccessfully request a one-year extension in which to abate property violations that resulted in a citation for unauthorized use.
The Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals denied the extension and, at its September 19th meeting, issued a resolution calling for the Touch Supper Club “to apply for all the required permits within thirty days; to cease use of the basement and to limit the first floor occupancy to 49 until these permits are obtained.”
The Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals remanded the property to the City of Cleveland Department of Building and Housing “for supervision and any required further action.”
The last legal use listed for the property was as a first floor coffee shop in 1996 with an occupancy permit allowing up to 49 people. The Touch Supper Club, in addition to serving as a dining establishment, has been operating the basement and first floor as nightclubs with a bar and dancing on both floors. The club lacked the proper permits and certificate of occupancy for live entertainment or a DJ and use as a nightclub on the basement and first floors. The club was also operating a patio without the proper permits.
Robert Ivanov, testifying on behalf of the owners of the Touch Supper Club (listed as William and Victor Halm), said the patio had been removed. Ivanov said he was meeting with Ward 13 Councilman Joe Cimperman to discuss expansion of the patio in the rear of the Touch Supper Club. Ivanov said he obtained a music permit from the City of Cleveland and was taking care of the other violations. He said the owners of the Touch Supper Club had reopened the facility in 2005 and had the support of Councilman Cimperman.
City of Cleveland Building and Housing inspector Rufus Taylor testified that the authorized use of the building is as a restaurant only, but it is being used as a nightclub, with live entertainment or a DJ. He expressed concern about safety resulting from the club’s exceeding its occupancy load. He said nighttime inspections of the building confirm, “It really gets packed.”
“Its legal use is as a restaurant, you go there and see something different,” Taylor testified.
Taylor said the music permit that Ivanov had obtained from Licenses and Assessments was not the permit required for nightclub use.
Henry Senyak, a Cleveland resident who has taken an interest in city regulation of local nightclubs, also testifying at the hearing. Senyak said his main focus was unauthorized use. He noted that both the operation as a nightclub and the use of the patio were unauthorized. He disputed the owners’ contention that the patio in front of the building had been closed, saying “the chairs are still out there.”
Senyak submitted notices of violations from the Building and Housing Department and the Division of Fire for the Touch Supper Club. He also submitted a picture from the club’s website showing the DJ and a crowd of more than 50 people. Senyak also produced nighttime photos of a crowd of people outside the club at night smoking and making gestures at passing cars.
David Cooper, testifying on behalf of the City of Cleveland, said the club had added a nightclub without the proper permits. He said the club had been given notice of the violations on July 5th and had taken no action. He asked that the club discontinue use as a nightclub for 30 days while it applied for the proper permits.
Lieutenant Douglas G. Veselsky, Chief Inspector/Fire Prevention Specialist of the Cleveland Division of Fire, testified that on the night he visited the Touch Supper Club, two weeks prior to the hearing, there was a very sparse crowd. He said the facility was safe and people were going outside to smoke. From a fire perspective, for occupancy of 49 people or less, he said, there were no problems and the proper permits were in place.
After Veselsky’s testimony, Senyak brought to the attention of the Board of Building Standards and Building Appeals a violation notice issued by the Division of Fire after a May 26th inspection by Ronald Mitchell. The May 26th inspection report indicated that there were over 150 people in the club, both the first floor and basement were in use as a nightclub, and the proper certificate of occupancy was lacking. The report also cited other safety concerns. Senyak said that, despite the Fire Department citation, the club continued to operate on both the first floor and basement.
Lieutenant Veselsky responded saying to the owners “the basement’s can’t be used.” He said an expensive sprinkler system would be required to have a two-floor nightclub.
After hearing all testimony, the five member Board of Building Standards ruled unanimously that the Touch Supper Club be given 30 days to apply for the proper permits, cease use of their basement, and limit the occupancy of the first floor to 49 people until proper permits are obtained. They remanded the case to the Department of Building and Housing. The resolution was formerly adopted at the board’s next meeting on September 19th, 2007.
After the hearing, in a discussion with Senyak and Veselsky, Ivanov said he was trying to bring a good clientele to the neighborhood. His idea was to have a supper club with a good chef that would convert to a nightclub after 10 or 11 p.m.
Veselsky suggested he hire an architect or engineer to help him come up with plans for a 1st floor nightclub and limit the size of the occupancy to 99 people. Veselsky noted standards put in place four years ago require a sprinkler system for establishments with occupancy of 100 or more, or having more than 5,000 square feet. He said having a two-floor nightclub would also require a sprinkler system.
Veselsky noted the sprinkler systems are extremely expensive. He said the Great Lakes Brewery, directly behind the Touch Supper Club, had installed such a system at great expense. Most water lines in the area are ¾” pipe, he said, while a 3” or 4” diameter pipe is necessary for the sprinkler system, adding to the cost of installing such systems.
Senyak explained that the National Fire Protection Association adopted the standards requiring sprinkler systems after a deadly fire in a Rhode Island nightclub.
Veselsky said the primary concern when regulating nightclubs should be safety. He suggested that the city of Cleveland create a six-month moratorium on enforcing the zoning issues related to nightclubs while updating the zoning code, “otherwise we will have a lot of empty storefronts.”
Senyak expressed concern that when owners of bars or restaurants are applying for permits that the License and Assessments staff don’t explain what they can do with each permit. He suggested that the License and Assessments explain to owners when they apply for permits what kind of music or entertainment they are allowed within the existing legal use. Senyak suggested that they should have a computer screen where they can call up the existing legal use of each building and advise owners what is currently allowed and what permits are needed for that use.
While Senyak agreed that the code in the City of Cleveland needed changing, he cautioned saying, “You can’t have every corner bar turn into a nightclub.”
Senyak also expressed concern that Lieutenant Veselsky’s testimony before the Board of Building Standards only included his one visit two weeks prior to the hearing. Senyak said the testimony should have included at least one year of records of Department of Fire inspections. Senyak, rather than the Fire Department, brought up the May 26th inspection and its documentation of overcrowding and operating on two floors.
Bob Shores, Safety Coordinator for Ohio City Near West Development Corporation, in whose territory the Touch Supper Club is located, said he has not received any complaints about the club. However, after viewing the videotapes of patrons of the club milling around outside the club at night, he said, “It is absolutely a concern. That is a good size crowd.” Shores said he plans to meet with Ivanov and discuss his concerns.
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