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Ferndale bar owner says he is making a hard decision to keep the music playing

Empty stage at the Main Street Bar & Grill (January 22, 2019). Photo courtesy of John Wirts

Michael Crow said that buying the Main Street Bar & Grill has been quite a ride with all the state and local regulatory licensing required, vendors to meet and make arrangements with and the necessary business planning. But, in an unusual turn of events, add to that needing to make a choice between spending upwards of $100,000 on a fire suppression sprinkler system or discontinuing the regular weekend appearances of live bands that has become the norm for years.

City of Ferndale officials told current owner John Wirts that the Main Street Bar & Grill was a “nightclub” per building code definitions after a fire code inspection in October. As a result, if there was to be music, a fire suppression sprinkler system had to be installed, something Wirts estimated would cost between $80,000 and $100,000.

Wirts was approached by Crow about buying the business and they both have spent the last few months struggling with how to best respond to this new regulatory constraint. During that time, Wirts filed an appeal which had allowed the music to continue, at least until he ends his ownership of the business on January 31st. The appeal hearing is scheduled for March 11th.

“If there ever was a fire, something I’d hope would never happen, a sprinkler system would definitely save lives,” Crow said. With that in mind, he has been investigating his options and said he is optimistic after talking with contractors that one of them will come through with a workable solution that could be implemented soon but no timeframe could be provided.

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In the meantime, Crow agreed to the added constraint of “no music” in order to obtain a City of Ferndale business license which will go into effect on February 1st. Once a sprinkler system has been installed and approved by the city, the constraint can be removed and the music can resume.

“The community has really shown us how much they want the music to continue,” Crow said. “Their support has been incredible,” referring to fundraising and volunteer efforts toward getting the sprinklers installed since the community learned of the situation earlier this month in a story published by My Ferndale News.

Crow said Wirts helped by lowering his sale price, bands have offered to perform for free and people have offered to help with the installation for free. “All these people are helping keep the music playing,” Crow said.

This means, at least as of today, tonight’s performance by the band, The Shannanagins, may be the last live music and dancing at the Main Street Bar & Grill for at least a few weeks, save for an appearance by JP Falcon and guest on Thursday, January 31st.

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