The Vancouver Fire Marshal’s office shut down a downtown hip-hop nightclub Friday night because C-Tran’s construction on a bus rapid transit center is blocking access to the business’s rear exit, making the building unsafe for occupancy.
“Our No. 1 concern is for fire and life safety,” said Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli. “In the history of the U.S., some of our largest-loss fires have been due to exiting problems. … This is a very serious concern to the fire department. Exiting is a crucial function of any nightclub.”
Last month, C-Tran officials informed Q Nightclub and Lounge owner Adrian Kallimanis and Wayne Magnoni, owner of the club’s building at 704 Main St., that they had been using C-Tran’s property for garbage access and a fire access without permission. They were given 30 days to find an alternate fire exit and garbage access, Jeff Hamm, C-Tran’s executive director/CEO, stated in a Nov. 2 letter. C-Tran would not be able to grant them an easement or any permission to continue using the property in the future, he wrote.
“Unfortunately, your continued use is not compatible with the new transit stop and transit operations,” Hamm wrote.
On Nov. 10, Scarpelli notified Kallimanis and Magnoni that C-Tran’s redevelopment of Turtle Place might jeopardize Q Nightclub’s use of the area for its required secondary exit. If the business couldn’t meet the requirement for assembly occupancy, the Fire Marshal’s office would immediately begin enforcement proceedings for business closure, her letter stated.
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Q Nightclub features DJs, dancing and R&B musical guests. Fire marshals and police entered Q Nightclub on Friday night shortly before it opened, posted a notice on the front door and informed employees they were shutting down the business.
Kallimanis, 40, who owns Q Nightclub with business partner Jose Parra, said he feels the city is conspiring against the club and has been looking for a way to shut it down. He’s considering filing a lawsuit, he said.
“I’m devastated,” Kallimanis said Monday. “I was basically in tears Friday night. I feel like everyone’s against us. … I never even knew stuff like this was possible, that this could even go on.”
For every weekend the club is closed, it loses roughly $10,000 in revenue, he said. The closure means 31 employees — including 10 staff members, 13 security guards and VIP hosts — are out of work during the holiday season, he said.
The club has had a rocky history since its debut Dec. 31, 2013, including a shooting outside the building in March 2014 and a drunken brawl in May 2014 that left a man with serious brain injuries. In a Columbian article published last year, Kallimanis said the shooting was unrelated to Q Nightclub because the establishment wasn’t open that night.
Nevertheless, the nightclub’s reputation suffered. Since then, Kallimanis said, police have been “harassing” the club and trying to get the state Liquor Control Board to deny a liquor license renewal, even though he said there’s been very little trouble at Q Nightclub this year.
“We follow all the liquor laws to the T,” Kallimanis said Monday. “They’ve never been able to violate us out of the business, so I feel like this is the only way they could do it.”
Scarpelli stated in her Nov. 10 letter that if the owners wanted to explore creating another exit, they should use a state-registered architect. If a second exit isn’t feasible, the owners could apply to the city for a change-of-use permit to use the building in another capacity — as an office or retail store, for instance, the letter said.
However, Kallimanis said, “That’s not what we’re into.”
Q Nightclub’s rear exit on the west side of the building opens onto a small patio enclosed by a wooden fence. A gate that opens to the south into Turtle Place was used for an emergency exit and garbage access until C-Tran’s construction for its future rapid-transit bus line, The Vine, made it impassable. Last week, Kallimanis cut a wide hole in the fence on the west of the patio, directly in front of the exit and placed a wooden step at the opening, thinking that would satisfy the city’s requirements. But it didn’t.
Scarpelli said that before Q Nightclub could move the gate, it would have to deal with an elevation difference — about 3 feet — between the patio and the parking lot. Also, Q Nightclub would need to get a formal agreement for an easement with Key Bank, which owns the parking lot, granting permission for use, she said.
Magnoni complained that C-Tran didn’t notify him about the transit center construction and the exit problem until early October. He’s been using the exit for loading and emergencies since the late 1970s, when the building housed a restaurant, said Magnoni, who is with Main Street Partners.
“The alleyway and easement has been in place since well before C-Tran acquired this property,” he wrote in a Nov. 17 email to Hamm. “Our use has never been challenged, but it has been supported, and tacitly approved of. If our operation was compatible before, it is compatible now.”
The value of the building is based on its present and future use, which requires rear loading and an emergency exit, he said. “If you needed to eliminate the easement, you should have purchased the building,” Magnoni stated in his email.
C-Tran spokesman Scott Patterson said the transit provider didn’t learn until this summer, when it was finalizing its Turtle Place design, that Q Nightclub had been using C-Tran’s property for an emergency exit. Continuing that use wasn’t possible, he said.
“That will be the area buses pull into and out of,” Patterson said.