City addresses Pipeline crowd issue
BY JASON GENEGABUS / firstname.lastname@example.org
The City and County of Honolulu and Honolulu Fire Department have responded to Star-Advertiser requests for more details about a developing situation at Pipeline Cafe.
As previously reported on The Pulse, the Kakaako nightclub has been forced to adjust its entertainment calendar after the city reduced the club's occupancy to fewer than 300 people late last month.
The venue changes are a result of building permit and fire sprinkler issues at Pipeline, according to owner Greg Azus. A first-floor addition lacked the proper permit when it was built in 2003, and the club does not have a functional automatic fire sprinkler system. The violations have barred the club from using the addition and a second-floor lounge, bringing the club’s legal capacity from 951 to 299 occupants.
When contacted earlier this week, Azus said he had "no idea what made this come up now.” HFD spokesman Capt. Terry Seelig disagreed, however, with the club owner's characterization of the situation when he spoke with this columnist on Friday afternoon.
“The company, Pipeline Cafe, has known about these concerns and violations for years,” he said. “In November, we reached the point where we had to act because there was no sign of compliance. There was no good faith effort to get these things done, even though there were promises.
“The only alternative was to reduce the capacity to what is safe for the building's size and protection systems.”
According to city spokeswoman Louise Kim McCoy, the department of planning and permitting sent the club a notice of violation on Nov. 22 for “interior alterations done without a building permit,” although she said no fines were assessed. Azus said he has since acquired the necessary permit.
The citation introduced significant limitations at the club — for “public safety reasons,” McCoy said Pipeline is only allowed to use a 5,000-square-foot area that allows for 299 people inside at any given time.
In order to accomodate the club’s legal capacity, said Seelig, Pipeline would need a sprinkler system that is “charged” with pressurized water already in the pipes and ready to flow if sprinkler heads are affected by heat. Once that system is in place, the club can return to its original capacity.
“But that building should never hold more than 951 people,” Seelig added. “Anything over that would be over the maximum capacity. … It’s not designed to hold that many people.”