Historic Building as a Private Club

The building is on the historic register in Albuquerqe, NM. It was built in 1903. It ceased being used as a residence in the late 1950's or so, was a fraternity house for a few years, then a commercial space, before being bought and used as a private club in 1971. It has remained in use as a private club ever since.

The fire marshal recently failed the club's license to operate with more than 49 persons present because the primary entrance opens inward. This entrance is a character defining feature according to the historic survey funded by the national park service. Changing this would significantly alter the character of the building.

Subsequent to that, the fire marshal changed his tune to failing the structure for use by more than 49 persons pending an engineering report to be provided by the club stating that the club is structurally sound as an assembly structure. The building will not meet current codes for an assembly structure.

Does the fire marshal have this much authority? Any Ideas for how to deal with this?
Original Post
Tomm,

I regret to say that the local fire marshall does have that much authority since they are charged with public and life safety in a public forum. When you reach that "more than 49 person" level, you are in a different classification for usage within the building code and life safety code.

Your best bet is to go along with a structural integrity report from a reputable structural engineer.

I don't know what the use of this structure is, other than for a private club, but it could be to your benefit in possible legal proceedings to have the report done.

Just a hint, the local fire marshall can be your worst enemy, or your best friend and unless he asks for something completely outragious. this will at least get him off your back.

Robert Cuperus
thom,
It is a bit unusual to have a fire marshal change tactics. Something has him upset with the "private club". Given that the club has been operating since 1971, there cannot be an "ex post facto" situation for codes unless there are laws that can be applied retroactive.

For information resources on historic, start with: http://www.nmhistoricpreservat...orms/Manual/laws.pdf
In CA a building classified as historic (or on registry, etc) is allowed to use the State Historic codes for analysis. (It actually reads that the local jurisdictions SHALL allow the use of the historic code...) The intent is that reasonable solutions be allowed provided they are analyized and determined to be sufficient fixes, etc due to the complexity of existing building construction compared to current day practices. Check Historical resources such as local historic codes, state historic codes, (there is good information from other states as well such as CA, NJ), consider consulting with a historic building professional as well. Ultimately it is the Fire Marshalls call but if they are involved in the "solutions" process rather than seen as the road block I think you will find a much better working relation and resolution.
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