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City-ordered ‘fire watch’ allowed brewery to stay open despite safety concerns

City-ordered ‘fire watch’ allowed brewery to stay open despite safety concerns

City code check at Frog Alley revealed deficiencies, officials say
City-ordered ‘fire watch’ allowed brewery to stay open despite safety concerns
A City of Schenectady SUV is shown outside Frog Alley Brewing on State Street Monday afternoon..
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

SCHENECTADY — A major downtown brewery stayed open throughout the weekend despite concerns flagged by the city Codes Department over its sprinkler system and fire alarm, city officials acknowledged Monday. 

The discovery of the violations at Frog Alley Brewing on Friday prompted the city to order a “fire watch,” which required a city Fire Department truck to be deployed on Friday and Saturday to monitor the premises.

A routine compliance check by the city Codes Department on Friday morning revealed the deficiencies, said Chief Building Inspector Chris Lunn. 

The inspection determined the fire alarm was “in trouble” and the sprinkler had “zero water pressure,” said Lunn, who gave the brewpub until 5 p.m. to comply.

Lunn re-inspected the sprawling block-long complex at 108 State St. later that evening. While the problems had been remediated, the sprinkler system had not been certificated by a third party, Lunn said. 

“The action I took was to have a 'fire watch' performed by the city Fire Department," he said.

That designation requires first responders to conduct at least one complete patrol of the facility every 15 minutes alongside an extensive checklist of specific tasks.

The city Codes Department did not issue any formal code violations, but did request Frog Alley to present an action plan. 

"We have been waiting for electric meters on the 4th level so that we can activate [the] fire alarm on the 4th," said Frog Alley owner J.T. Pollard in an email. "We have been working closely with the building department to ensure safety of our tenants and the public."

The Fire Department presence allowed Frog Alley and its 6,000-square-foot taproom to stay open throughout the weekend when it otherwise would have been ordered to be temporarily closed until the violations passed inspection.

Instead, the venue hosted back-to-back concerts: Funk Evolution and Skeeter Creek performed on Friday night, while Vinny Michaels and Cryin Out Loud took the stage the following night. 

Mayor Gary McCarthy said city officials met Monday morning to discuss the situation. 

“They had a meeting this morning to resolve all of this stuff,” McCarthy said, referring further questions to Lunn and the city Fire Department.

Assistant Fire Department Chief Don Mareno referred all questions to Lunn. 

McCarthy on Monday said he was unaware of the specific violations.

The brewery serves as the anchor for the $30 million Mill Artisan District, which has been pointed to by local officials as a centerpiece of the city’s economic resurgence.

The taproom opened last spring after more than two years of demolition and construction; the first phase of the project is nearly done. 

Construction on 74 apartment units above the brewery is expected to be complete by this spring. Numerous retail tenants are also on tap, including Annabel’s Wood Fired Pizza and Bountiful Bread.

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