Contractor claims it had approval to tear down Alex Bar-B-Q. That’s not true, Pismo says

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.

Questions still abound on why the Alex Bar-B-Q building in Shell Beach was torn down without warning on Tuesday, especially in light of contradictory claims from the contractor and the city of Pismo Beach.

In a statement to The Tribune on Wednesday, Sean Kain, president of Kain Building and Design Group in San Luis Obispo, said the building was demolished with city knowledge.

“The demolition of Alex’s was conducted after meeting with, and approval by, numerous city officials in response to the on-site engineer’s emergency advisement of an imminent and immediate threat of collapse to any portion of the building with no warning,” Kain wrote. “The demolition was carried out in a manner which protected the safety of the public and our employees, which is always our primary concern.”

He added that the city “was made expressly aware demolition of any portion of the building had a substantial risk of compromising the integrity of the structure as a whole given the significant substandard and deteriorated condition of the building.”

Kain did not respond to a request for further comment on the exact events of Tuesday’s demolition.

In his own email statement, Pismo Beach Community Development Director Jeff Winklepleck said the allegation that the city knew about the demolition was not true.

“Put simply, Kain Building’s statement asserting that it had city permission to demolish the entire building is false,” he wrote.

Winklepleck said the city’s building inspector authorized the contractor to remove only the tower structure on the building, because it was a safety hazard. He said the building inspector did not grant emergency authorization to demolish any other portion of the building.

“While the city takes seriously any safety concerns raised during construction of projects within the city, Kain Building’s assertion that the entire building required demolition for safety reasons is revisionist history,” he said. “It is simply not true that the entire building was in imminent danger of collapse.”

Winklepleck also noted that photographs obtained by the city of the demolition site showed substantial portions of the original building in place after the tower structure was lowered on Tuesday.

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Pismo Beach officials say they permitted only the tower of the old Alex’s building to be removed; instead the entire restaurant was demolished. Courtesy of city of Pismo Beach

“Had the remaining portions of the building constituted a safety hazard, Kain Building could have consulted with city staff about remedial measures as they did with the tower,” Winklepleck wrote. “And an experienced contractor like Kain Building could have implemented protective measures that would have maintained the safe structural integrity of the remainder of the building. It is a true loss to the city that these measures were not taken.”

The building has stood on Shell Beach Road since at least the 1930s. It was named after its first notable owner, Alex Angelo, who immigrated to the United States from Greece and purchased the building in 1943. It remained a bar and grill through 2014, when the building’s owner sold it to Compass Health.

Compass Health has not responded to multiple requests for comment on the incident, but at the City Council meeting Tuesday night, Compass Health representative Mitch Woolpert said the company was committed to getting to the root of what happened.

“We share the community’s anger and will continue to work with the city to rectify the situation,” Woolpert said.

Pismo Beach City Manager Jim Lewis said the building’s owner could face maximum fines and have its permit for the project revoked because of the demolition.

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Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie
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