Sorry for being a little slow to update the blog. We have been super busy trying to get our permits. There is so much to talk about since our last post, so I’ll try and put everything in the best order I know possible. The biggest news is our move from OKC to Midwest City, so I’ll go into the details surrounding that first. After we filed for our TTB license, which we thought was going to be the hardest one to get, we filed for our license with the Oklahoma Alcohol and Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission, or better known as the ABLE Commission. The ABLE Commission regulates any alcoholic beverage above 4.0% ABV.
One of the items on the checklist for the license paperwork is something called a “certificate of compliance”. A certificate of compliance is a statement issued by the city to the ABLE Commission stating that the brewery has been approved by the health department, it is zoned properly, and it meets safety and fire codes. What’s not on here is that the building has to have the correct permitted use. A building that hasn’t been permitted for use as manufacturing requires a brewery to upgrade the facility/ Now for a building that is fairly new it wouldn’t require more than a simple plan drawn up of where the building’s exits are, bathrooms, equipment, fixtures, etc. So, despite the fact that a property is zoned properly it CANNOT be used for a specific purpose. The majority of people even in the commercial real estate business don’t understand this. In fact all of the real estate agents we spoke to didn’t know about this. In fact the process of rezoning can be easier that just bringing the building up to code.
This is exactly the situation we ran into at the 1 NE 14th building. The building was built in 1934 by the Santa Fe Railroad Company and wasn’t upgraded since then. It had always been grandfathered in and never needed to be upgraded. Once we tried to switch it’s use from storage to warehouse it required the building to be upgraded. Like a good boy I took my 18 x 24” prints on the building and the site down to city hall. They were reviewed there and I was told I needed to add 2 ADA bathrooms, a 60’ ramp or a wheelchair elevator, an extra exit and 26 parking spots including 2 handicapped spots. Now because of alcohol laws in Oklahoma we are not allowed to sell beer directly to customers, so the brewery was going to be completely private.
After I made my adjustments I printed off my new plans and took them back down to the plans review department. Again, I needed to make a change and this happened about 5 times. Finally my plans were approved for review. During the review the process got held up on silly questions like whether or not us milling grain was going to create a fire hazard. Remind you that the building is solid concrete with no wood structure. I was also told on numerous occasions that we would most likely not need a fire suppression system. During the plan review the reviewer can make what they call variances, which is based upon our anticipated needs. For instance the 26 parking spots I had to put in the original plan was narrowed down to six and the ADA bathrooms were cut down to one.
The final review came about 6 weeks after the first time I had approached the department to see what I needed to do to get the certificate of compliance. To our surprise the final review showed that we needed to install fire suppression in the entire building. All 35,000 square feet, even though we were only leasing 5,000 square feet. That translates to at a minimum of $100,000. After going back and forth proposing solutions to our problem the reviewer said no to each one. Even after going over his head pleading my case to the head reviewer all we got was no.
As the lessee we didn’t want to upgrade the entire building, not that we could have anyways. The landlord also didn’t want to upgrade the building, so our options were vastly limited and we finally had to do the thing that we had been trying to avoid for so long. We had to move.
For anyone looking to open up a business I would check to make sure the building you are looking at would work for you. If you are thinking about putting something in like a bar or restaurant I would definitely hire a contractor to steer you through all the codes, rules and regulations.