A Rossland Avenue business has landed in hot water and could soon be out of business after switching from retail to restaurant without the proper permits.
Property owners Darrell and Wendy LeMoel changed the occupancy of the Gulch General Store from retail/mercantile to restaurant/assembly occupancy without first obtaining a building permit as required by the City of Trail’s building bylaw.
The matter has been simmering since January, when the city issues renewal invoices to all of Trail’s licensed businesses.
“We were advised by the building department, with letters dating back to December, that this matter needed to be attended to,” said Michelle McIsaac, the city’s corporate administrator.
“So staff did not issue the renewal invoices for those two licensed businesses.”
Mike’s Plumbing and Heating and the Gulch store operate from the main floor of the property, with two residential suites located on the second floor.
Since 2013, there’s been numerous back and forth between the site’s operator Casey LeMoel, and the regional district building department over building infractions such as the lack of exit doors, non-containment of the furnace room and extension cords taped onto furnace gas supply lines.
However, during a site inspection in April 2014, the department noted a seating area for patrons in the premises that included tables, napkin holders, and a menu boasting “Our famous 2 for 1 BP Italian Pizza,” plus extra crispy chicken, fish and chips and a full breakfast fare.
LeMoel held a food retailer’s permit from Interior Health for the sale of pre-packaged products such as frozen food items that could be reheated without deep frying, grilling or creating smoke or exhaust of any kind.
But expanding the sale of takeout food into a restaurant triggers not just permits, but requirements for certain amenities such as accessible washrooms and fire separation between the commercial space and the second floor apartments.
Trail council reviewed the ongoing contravention of the city’s building bylaw during the Monday night meeting and agreed to take a first step of action.
McIsaac was directed to file a notice of the bylaw violations in the Land Title Office as an initial measure.
“What that does is alert prospective purchasers that there is a contravention of a municipal bylaw and they then know to look into it further,” she explained.
The lack of compliance is precedent setting, said McIsaac, when she requested and received the go-ahead from council to drawing advice from the city’s lawyer.
“Because of the known noncompliance, where the premises doesn’t comply with municipal regulations or potentially provincial regulations, we now have to seek our solicitor’s recommendations on moving forward with respect to licence renewal.”
The property owners, however, say they are not taking the action sitting down.
“I feel that this contravention is unreasonable, unfair treatment, and in our case, inapplicable,” Darrell LeMoel wrote in an email to the Trail Times.
He says the updated BC Building Code came into effect in December 2012, which was well after changes were made in the Gulch General Store.
LeMoel maintains the City of Trail building bylaw that was in effect during the store’s restaurant expansion does not have any definitions of “occupancy” or ‘”change of occupancy or “descriptions of classifications for a change of occupancy.”
“At this point my interpretation would be that you would have to refer to the 2012 BC Building Code for this information,” he continued. “Which once again did not come into effect until December 2015 [sic]. Therefore as a result, I feel the contravention is inapplicable in our case.”