LOGAN — A code compliance hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 29 by the Ohio Department of Commerce on a downtown Logan building owned by Mike Nihiser.
According to department officials, inspectors have been attempting to conduct an inspection on the building for months, but have been denied access.
Lynn Tolen, communications director for the Ohio Department of Commerce, said that Nihiser has been very uncooperative with inspectors as well as officials from the Logan Fire Department who are seeking to conduct inspections on the building.
“This has nothing to do with the business that is located in the building,” Tolen said. “It’s strictly on the building itself. The department knows there have been amendments made to the building, and they need to make sure the building is in compliance with all regulations.”
However, Nihiser told The Logan Daily News in a phone interview on Tuesday afternoon that he believes the hearing is about the renters wanting to open a teen center again.
“Didn’t you read the complaint?” he questioned. “Didn’t you get a copy of it? And, why is this so important?”
“They’re the ones that have to prove their case,” Nihiser stated, referring to the Ohio Department of Commerce. “I will see what they’re saying and then take it from there.”
Nihiser also said he questioned and requested information from the Ohio Department of Commerce on several other buildings in Logan that have changed occupancy over the years, but has received nothing to date.
“I requested a copy of at least six other buildings in Logan concerning building compliance and not having an assembly permit,” he said.
He requested information on the buildings presently occupied by Saving Hardware, Spotted Owl, Office City, the former Logan-Hocking Chamber of Commerce building, and others that have changed owners and building use over the years.
“How many inspections did the Ohio Department of Commerce conduct on those buildings throughout the years as they changed from business to business?” he questioned.
“The VFW used to be located in the building where Saving’s rental business is located now,” Nihiser said. “Did they need to have a change of occupancy when they moved in there? Were they inspected?”
“The old chamber office throughout the years was a dress shop at one time, a home, a dentist office, as well as other things — did they come down and inspect that building every time it changed occupancy? This is what you should be asking the department of commerce,” he said.
Nihiser’s building in question is located at 54 E. Main St. and is the home of the Red Door Internet Café & Arcade, which opened in September. Shortly after opening, though, the business closed its doors due to violations placed on the building by the Ohio Department of Commerce.
Red Door Internet Café & Arcade is owned by local resident Dancing Elk, who is sub-leasing the building from David Weber, who in turn leases the building from Nihiser.
Dancing Elk did admit to making some minor structural changes to the inside of the building, including painting the walls and constructing a non-stationary office area.
According to Tolen, the state is aware of the changes, but needs to inspect the building to make sure the structural changes meet all compliance rules and regulations.
When Dancing Elk closed his business in October, a note was placed on the door stating, “Closed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
On Jan. 7, though, that note was replaced with a new one that said, “We will reopen after the 26th of January. Our doors have been closed since October in support of the building owners hearing with the Ohio Department of Commerce building compliancy department, which in our opinion, is an example of administrative bullying and political attempt to keep us from operating. We look forward to your future business in hopes that all issues will be dealt with.”
The following day, the new sign was replaced again with, “Closed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience.”
When asked about the upcoming hearing, Dancing Elk said, “As far as the hearing, I know nothing about it other than we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If we relocate, all the work and time has been for nothing. And we have to spend more money just to open.”
“If we wait until after the hearing to re-open, nothing is for sure and we could have been wasting time when we could have been operating,” Dancing Elk said.
“So far we have been sitting on our hands for four months, still paying our overhead and bringing in no revenue,” he explained. “This ordeal has cost me a lot of money I don’t have.”
“If I could afford to sue the state for this administrative bullying, I would,” he added. “You know the legal definition on their own documents states nothing about the ‘change of occupant’ which seemed to be their response when I questioned them about the legality of the definition of change of use and occupancy.”
“So at the request of the building owner, we have not opened,” he said. “Otherwise, I myself would have fought them in court and continued to do business if it had become a legal issue, which I believe might have been a misdemeanor. I do not agree with the way the state is conducting their affairs. The state is interfering with our commerce.”
A phone call to the Ohio Department of Commerce revealed that there has been a continuous issue with inspectors not being able to complete inspections on the building.
In September, five state officials arrived to inspect the building, but Nihiser was not present, so the inspectors left. According to Tolen, this has been a repeat occurrence.
“This is a violation hearing to determine if the establishment owner must allow officers in for an inspection,” Tolen said in a phone interview earlier this week.
“They need to allow inspectors in for code compliance and safety issues. It’s our understanding that the building owner not only has been uncooperative with our inspectors, but also uncooperative with your local fire department as well,” he said.
For Dancing Elk, it’s another disappointment and setback as he attempts to open his business and survive, yet keeps coming across stumbling blocks that prevent him from doing so.
“We just need to see both sides present during the hearing and hope both mutually agree to a solution to this issue,” said Logan Fire Chief Brian Robertson.
Logan City Service Director Steve Shaw agreed with Robertson and said, “We’re anxiously awaiting the outcome and hoping to get this resolved.”
Robertson and Shaw are planning on attending the hearing at the Ohio Department of Commerce office, located at 6606 Tussing Road, Reynoldsburg, on Jan. 29.