Alex Bar-B-Q owner could face fines, lose permit for tearing down landmark building

Alex Bar-B-Q building reduced to rubble in Shell Beach

The historic Alex Bar-B-Q building in Shell Beach was suddenly demolished Tuesday, September 18, 2018, without the proper city permits.
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The historic Alex Bar-B-Q building in Shell Beach was suddenly demolished Tuesday, September 18, 2018, without the proper city permits.

It was clear Tuesday evening that something had gone really, really wrong.

Only a few hours after word spread that the historic Alex Bar-B-Q building in Shell Beach had been suddenly demolished — without warning or permits — a representative of Compass Health, which owns the building, spoke before the Pismo Beach City Council during public comment, promising to “rectify the situation.”

“I’m here to share our disappointments and frustrations with today’s events at Alex’s,” said Mitch Woolpert, lead for the project that aimed to renovate the building into a new restaurant.

“We are committed to this community, this project and to getting to the bottom of how this happened,” he said, reading from a prepared statement. “We share the community’s anger, and will continue to work with the city to rectify the situation.”

It is still unclear exactly what happened — Woolpert didn’t address it in his statement, and Compass Health has not returned requests for comment on the incident.

City officials were notified on Tuesday that the Alex Bar-B-Q building, which has stood on Shell Beach Road since at least the 1930s, was being torn down, despite the contractor for the project only having permission to remove a tower from the original building.

“The work continued, and they continued and they continued,” city manager Jim Lewis said in an impassioned presentation to the City Council on Tuesday. “We noticed it, immediately tried to red tag it. We were too late. It was amazing — the backhoe was pretty swift.”

Lewis said the property was originally approved for a historic remodel to add patio seating and upgrade the building so it could be “a center of Shell Beach streetscape” project.

The Alex Bar-B-Q building on Shell Beach Road is slated to be a new restaurant by Compass Health. City representatives have since halted work on the project. Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

“This is unacceptable,” Lewis said, holding up a print-out rendering of the new proposed restaurant. “This is what was approved. This was a historic remodel — I want the community to see this. This is very important. A historic remodel of a building that was very special to us. We won’t get this now. And that is just a tragedy.”

Lewis told the council the city would issue “maximum fines, to the extent permitted by your law, and we will be very swift to do so.”

“I will also be recommending revocation of the permit for this project,” he said. “There is no development here.”

The exact amount of the fines is still to be decided, though Lewis noted that the city has previously issued fines of double the permit amount when other unapproved demolition has occurred in the city.

Lewis said it would be up to Compass Health and the contractor on the project to figure out what went wrong and how they will address the loss of the building.

“I trust that these parties will figure out what happened and will do everything they can to come back and apologize and mitigate — I don’t know how you mitigate destroying one of our unique buildings — but I’m sure they can work that out, because that is what we will be requiring them to do,” he said.

While figuring out the next steps, the rubble of Alex Bar-B-Q will stay where it currently is: in the public eye.

“The debris will remain out there as well for people to observe,” Lewis said.

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Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie
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