View Full Version : occupancy inspections

February 16th, 2010, 19:51
Where I am now and where I worked a couple of years in another town we did change of occupancy inspections. This is done whether there is a classification change and also basically what would be called a name change (change of ownership). Now it's my understanding from studying the code and talking with occupancy inspectors in other locales that if you have a classification change such as a Group B being changed to a Group A2 at that point everything should be brought up to current code standards. No questioning that. However, f the building is not having a classification change and only change of ownership then the building should meet the code requirements that were in effect at the time the original CO was issued. That is what I was told by several City of Houston occupancy inspectors.

Now for the dilema. Everyone in town wants to close down a problematic bar. They have never had a CO prior that I'm aware of at this particular bar. Historically, all anyone can remember is that this place has always been a bar. This bar has been there at least 25 years and may date back to the sixties. This bar has an occupant load of 146 which is required to have a sprinkler system being it is a Group A2 by current 06 IBC standards. Can I get away with telling them they have to have a sprinkler system to acquire a CO even though it is just a "change of ownership" type of deal? Bear in mind we are on the 06 IBC. My gut tells me they should not be required to have a sprinkler systems if they can show it was always a bar. However, I don't know what records should be produced if any or if other documentation would suffice or even if it's necssary. Should the property owner have to prove the building was always a bar?

The powers that be really want this place to go away with all the police calls, fights and such. I did find out awhile ago that the property owner has lawyered up so the plot will surely thicken in the next day or 2.

Our att. suggested that I give them a temporary CO with the reduced occupant load for 60 days and tell them they have that long to get up to current standards.

Input is welcome!

You know, I miss digging ditches sometimes.


February 16th, 2010, 20:38
No requirements to upgrade caused by a change of ownership. If you want a legal fight, it sounds like you might have one. I wouldn't suggest going down that road.

---Deleted comment regarding vacant building as I could not find anything in the code to back it up---
I do seem to remember reading something, but I have no idea what my brain is remembering.

February 16th, 2010, 20:51
Do you work with your local fire department, and do they enforce any other codes that the IBC? If so this could be one of those situations where teaming up and providing a united front for, a the very least, a step in the direction of "closer to compliance".

If it is just the IBC, I would have them give proof as to the year it first was occupied as a bar and take a look at chapter 34. Generally, I don't believe you can require any updating except something that is life threatening when there is no change of use/category. If the building has been closed and lost any previous zoning approvals (grandfathering) and your jurisdiction can require new zoning approvals, then you get to pass "go" and collect $200 and require anything in the book (maybe).

And all that aside, code compliance probably wouldn't affect behavior, unless you forced them out of business.

Plans Approver
February 16th, 2010, 21:39
Ask your legal counsel if the city or state has anything like "vested rights" - the use has existed prior to the adoption of the current code or some years before. Had a local bar turn into a "gentleman's club" after years of sending in the building, fire, health departments, liquor control board, they are still operating. Yep, lawyered up until we gave up. Arguing with them was like wrestling with a pig in mud, pretty soon you realize that the pig is enjoying it! (apologies to Fatboy for adapting his sig).

February 16th, 2010, 22:33
sounds like you are getting bad advice, and they want you to play Dirty Hairy.

so are there other businesses in same town that have no c of o's??????? if so are they going after them??

if it has been a bar forever than highly unlikely you can require a sprinkler system or much more.

sounds like the city needs a different approach to get what goal they are trying to get.

you are hearing the correct stuff change of use/ occupancy tyoe can kick in upgrades, someone else can talk about the existing building chapter better than me.

Uncle Bob
February 16th, 2010, 23:38
You can't have sprinkler systems in a bar; unless the they can be installed at least 12' above the floor.

The drunks will keep setting them off; just for kicks. :)

Uncle Bob

February 17th, 2010, 02:25
Input is welcome!

Request that your superiors put their instructions to you in writing...'cause you're heading to court with that kind of cockimamey code interpretation.

Builder Bob
February 17th, 2010, 09:50
Does your area have business Licenses? If the prior BL was for a bar, the new use is a bar, no strucutral changes are involved, sounds like you are getting set up to be inked........

BTW, check with the fire deparartment to see if they have an pre-incident survey (old day pre-fire plans)..... This may help ya or hinder ya..

Glennman CBO
February 17th, 2010, 12:22
We do business license inspections where they are applying for a new license (exclusive of the annual fire inspections). If there is no change of occupancy, then the space stays the way it is, with no requirements to update anything to new code standards.

Our state has a retroactive sprinkler requirement for existing occupancies in the A-2 catagory that have dance floors over 350 sq ft in existing "night clubs". There is an occupant load factor as well. If one is going to enforce this, it has to be enforced accross the board in all "night clubs" in the jurisdiction.

Unless your jurisdiction has something like this to hang its hat on, you might be facing an uphill battle. Watch out for when when it starts rolling back down hill in your direction.

February 17th, 2010, 12:34
If your zoning code has a provision regarding legal nonconforming uses being vacant for [insert period of time here] becoming illegal, AND has a provision that to legally re-establish said use the use has to meet current regulations in force, you might have a shot.

Just changing the owner will not get you there...usually.

High Desert
February 17th, 2010, 13:18
If your jurisdiction hasn't amended Chapter 1 of the IBC, you may get some help from this section. Of course, you would have to have real jusitifcation and a history of unsafe conditions for requiring sprinklers "for the general safety and welfare of the occupants and the public." Not based on alcohol induced behavior. Unless I had that ammo, I wouldn't go there.

102.6 Existing structures. The legal occupancy of any structure existing on the date of adoption of this code shall be permitted to continue without change, except as is specifically covered in this code, the International Property Maintenance Code or the International Fire Code, or as is deemed necessary by the building official for the general safety and welfare of the occupants and the public.

February 17th, 2010, 13:50
thanks for the input folks. It's an uphill battle for sure but the powers that be want to give it a shot. I will post up with further developments as they come up.


High Desert
February 17th, 2010, 14:30
Just make sure you attorney will "lawyer up" for you if you end up in court!

February 17th, 2010, 14:47
Is there liquor license regulated? With a new owner they might have a new history. If this establishment has too many police calls can there liquor license be pulled for them creating a nuisance?

If the police department parks one of there cruisers in there parking lot, it might decrease there business.

February 21st, 2010, 22:55
Look for any illegal additions that have been made since the 2006 code change. If there is none drop off the radar screen and wait for some illegal construction that is not permited and adds square footage to the building and then you have a case. :o Been there done that!!!!!!!!!!