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Schenectady to bill Frog Alley Brewing for weekend ‘fire watch’

Schenectady to bill Frog Alley Brewing for weekend ‘fire watch’

Business will be charged $5,400 for city worker's time
Schenectady to bill Frog Alley Brewing for weekend ‘fire watch’
Frog Alley Brewing on State Street in Schenectady stayed open despite apparent code violations officials confirmed Monday.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SCHENECTADY — The Frog Alley Brewing Co. will be billed about $5,400 to pay for the city Fire Department's use of three employees to conduct a "fire watch" on the business over the weekend after a routine inspection exposed safety issues.

The city's chief building inspector, Chris Lunn, ordered the watch on Friday after a routine inspection revealed non-compliant fire alarm and sprinkler systems. 

While both systems were working and active Friday night, the sprinkler system had not been certified by a state-licensed inspector, Lunn said. 

In response to The Daily Gazette's continued investigation of the matter on Tuesday, city officials released new information about the Frog Alley situation, some of which contradicted information released Monday.

On Monday, Lunn said he issued a flat directive to implement the watch. 

But on Tuesday, city Fire Chief Ray Senecal indicated Frog Alley was offered a choice between closing the business or requiring them to pay for the three firefighters who patrolled the complex on Friday and Saturday.

“This did not cost the city taxpayers anything,” Senecal said. “[Frog Alley] either had to shut the business down, or pay for additional safety — and they opted to pay for it.”

Lunn confirmed he issued a flat directive, which was lifted Tuesday afternoon after the sprinkler system had been certified. 

Senecal said fire watches aren’t uncommon, but are typically performed by trained civilians.

But Schenectady Fire Department does opt to deploy firefighters for large commercial structures like Frog Alley, a block-long complex on lower State Street. 

“We do that when we’re considering a heightened risk or large occupancy,” Senecal said.

The 6,000-square-foot taproom hosted back-to-back concerts on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Despite the presence of a truck parked outside, the three firefighters were inside conducting patrols.

As part of their responsibilities during a fire watch, first responders are required to patrol the facility every 15 minutes and cycle through an extensive checklist of specific tasks, including watching conditions and ensuring the exits are clear. 

“They put eyes on every part of the building,” Senecal said. 

The watch was in effect until Tuesday morning, Senecal said, and the detail didn’t detract from the department’s everyday duties.

“This had nothing to do with our daily operations,” he said.

Frog Alley owner J.T. Pollard acknowledged the sprinkler system was down when the inspection was being conducted.

"But it was down because we were adding additional sections of the building onto the system," Pollard said. "This is typical in a multi-phased project. Sprinkler and fire alarm were always in full operation when the taproom was open."

The city Codes Department did not issue any formal code violations in connection with the inspection.

The brewery serves as the anchor for the $30 million Mill Artisan District. The taproom opened last spring after more than two years of demolition and construction, and construction on 74 apartment units above the brewery is expected to be complete by this spring. 

Numerous retail tenants are also planned, including Annabel’s Wood Fired Pizza and Bountiful Bread.

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