July 11. 2013 10:42PM

Codes & confrontations: A better way for the city?


It is every business owner's nightmare. Government inspectors show up unannounced, declare you out of compliance with regulations, and shut you down. Kevin Cornish, owner of K.C.'s Rib Shack on Second Street, lived such a nightmare just before Independence Day. City officials ordered his outdoor tiki bar closed for 12 code violations. Cornish and Ward 10 Alderman Phil Greazzo say the business should have been given time to fix the violations while staying open. They have a point, as does the city code enforcement office.

The city Health Department cited a few health violations at the tiki bar earlier this year and ordered them fixed. They did not get fixed, Cornish admits. The Health Department alerted code enforcement about possible building code violations, which triggered a visit to the restaurant.

The 12 violations listed in the city's letter to K.C.'s include a grass roof on the tiki bar — a violation of city code regarding flame-retardant roof materials — and a fence that blocked off the exit from the patio. To city code enforcers, fire hazards trump a business' bottom line.

"I just don't see why city staff wouldn't try to help him stay open," Greazzo told us. Sure, that would be ideal and should always be a goal of the code enforcement office. If the city was needlessly adversarial in this case, that is a problem that needs to be addressed. But based on the city's report, it seems that some immediate enforcement action was justified. Greazzo might do all city businesses a favor by asking for a review of the building code and zoning ordinances, and the processes by which they are enforced, to see whether a less adversarial approach can be devised.