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Geneva aldermen approve alternative fire plan for beer biz

Beer Cellar can install fire alarm instead of sprinklers

GENEVA – Aldermen voted unanimously March 25 to approve an appeal from a new business owner so he does not to have to install a sprinkler system.

Instead, the successful appeal means that Dave Hawley, owner of The Beer Cellar, 204 W. State St., can install an automatic fire alarm and smoke detection system, and agree to terms of how the space is to be maintained, officials said.

City attorney Ron Sandack advised aldermen that they were acting in a quasi-judicial manner on Hawley’s appeal.

Because the occupancy was changing from retail to retail with some public assembly, the city code required a sprinkler system to be installed.

Retailer Boardsports Unlimited had previously occupied that space.

Economic Development Director Cathleen Tymoszenko said staff has been working with Hawley for almost a year.

“As part of their diligence, they submitted a floor plan to the city for the leased space. And the floor plan depicted an occupant load of 74 people for the leased space, with a first floor occupancy of 64 people and a basement occupant load of 10,” Tymoszenko said.

“The primary use of the leased space will be to sell packaged craft beer,” Tymoszenko said. “As a secondary use, customers are provided an opportunity to taste a rotating selection of beers on tap.”

Tymoszenko called it a “hybrid use” where retail is involved along with assembly.

The architect, Stephen Shatswell, proposed a alternative, considered an equal or more effective life safety measure for the use and layout of the business, which was the subject of the appeal.

“There was agreement to those terms between the city and the code officials,” Tymoszenko said. “We actually recommended that they file the appeal based on these agreed-upon terms. Although city staff does support the alternative method, staff does not have the legal authority to allow the proposed fire prevention method to be substituted” for sprinklers.

Shatswell said if the company had to install sprinklers in the 1868 building, they would have to put in a secondary water line and tear up State Street and sidewalks in order to do it.

The cost associated with that would not make that location viable for The Beer Cellar business, according to the appeal.

Shatswell said the owner has a similar set-up in Glen Ellyn, which also adopted the 2009 International Building Code as Geneva has, but permitted a similar alternative there.

In addition to installing a fire alarm, the business would also have a smoke alarm that would trigger the fire alarm, as well as a manual pull-down fire alarm, Shatswell said.

Fire Chief Michael Antenore said the occupancy is about 80 percent retail and 20 percent assembly at The Beer Cellar.

“We feel this is an adequate risk mitigator,” Antenore said, of the alternative fire safety plan.

Hawley said he did not have an opening date for the Beer Cellar, but hoped to be ready by August.

“This will get the ball rolling,” Hawley said of the successful appeal.

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