Despite an initial six-month time table to replace its fire suppression system and cooking hood, owners of Sunshine Cafe, 135 W. Washington St., temporarily closed the business June 25 following new findings by fire officials.
Now Allen Drake, co-owner of the cafe, said he doesn’t anticipate opening again until August.
Ann Hall, City of Sequim building official and fire marshal, issued a Notice of Violation to Drake on June 25 that stated the cafe’s “extensive code violations pose life safety, health and welfare issues for the owners, the Drakes, and the general public at large. Therefore, the hood and associated fire suppression system are declared to be a public nuisance and shall be abated by repair, rehabilitation, demolition or removal no later than July 24.”
Drake and his wife, Dianne, met with city and fire officials on April 28 to discuss their options and were under the assumption they had until October to make the changes.
However, Chris Hugo, City of Sequim director of community development, who oversees Hall, said the Drakes invited fire officials back on June 10 to see new discoveries by a fire suppression contractor who said the cafe’s hood and its duct work have holes in the metal that are saturated with grease.
“The hood is not protecting the premises adequately,” Hugo said. “The conditions in the walls are just ripe for taking off from a fire. The potential for loss of property and life are too high.”
The inspection of the cafe’s hood earlier this year was its first since 2013.
City and fire officials noted last week in the story “Fire code enforcement leads to costly repairs for Sequim restaurants” that they are picking up inspections and enforcement more after several years of neglect. The City of Sequim contracts its fire inspections to Clallam County Fire District 3.
Hugo said the Notice of Violation to the cafe was not a shut-down notice.
“We have a duty to protect the public’s safety and welfare, which became unavoidable,” he said. “The remedy was going to take too long. We wanted to be sensitive and give them the ability to adjust the menu.”
In the notice it states, “No food shall be prepared utilizing the appliances that are required to be protected by a Type 1 Hood and associated Fire Suppression System.”
However, Drake said he didn’t want to open and only serve a portion of his menu and he understands the decision to close down the grill.
“One spark could cause the place to burn down in a minute,” Drake said. “If there was a fire, there’s nothing behind the holes to protect this place from a fire.”
Drake said his insurance company would only cover expenditures — including salaries of his seven employees — if there was a disaster like a fire. However, his employees are eligible for unemployment, he said.
As for the business owners’ livelihood, Drake said the summer is their peak season.
“This is our carry us through winter season.”
Olympic View Properties owner Brown M. Maloney, who owns Sunshine Cafe’s building, said he has committed to pay for the hood replacement as the cafe’s landlord and is contracting with Air Flo Heating Co. to replace the kitchen ventilation and stainless steel.
Joel Berson, general manager of Air Flo, said the cafe reopening at the beginning of August is “a realistic goal.”
Hugo said several other restaurants including the 7th Avenue Steakhouse, Elks Club, Moon Palace, Mariner’s Cafe and Paradise Restaurant all faced similar mandatory fire suppression system changes and they made the conversions. Moon Palace owner George Lee said the change cost him about $3,500.
Last month, Las Palomas Mexican Restaurant, 1085 E. Washington St., was shut down for two days by the City of Sequim until its fire suppression system was repaired. Restaurant owners were given six months to replace the system because the fix was temporary.
However, they too face a hood change that could cost more than $20,000 as estimated by other restaurants and fire officials.
Fernando Lopez, co-owner of Las Palomas, said since he and his brothers own the building, they are responsible for repairs and the money will be hard to come up with to make the hood and fire suppression system replacements.