Two longtime Trail businesses are fighting to stay afloat after being shut out of their respective facilities.
On Nov. 20, the building at 1425 Cedar Ave. was shutdown due to historic fire code violations after an employee smelled smoke and called Kootenay Boundary Regional Fire and Rescue.
Now more than two months later and still locked out, the owners of Pride Gym, Glen Kalesniko, and Performance Fitness, Mark Allen, and their patrons, are feeling the pinch, unable to enter the building and continue their workouts.
“I’ve been at my gym for over 32 years and 23 in that space, and both me and Mark did 15 months of COVID, and now this,” Kalesniko told the Trail Times. “We are just building our business back up right from the brink, just getting it going, and we didn’t even make the year.
“We had no idea there were years of fire code violations,” added Kalesniko. “We were never notified by the landlord or fire department.”
January and February are traditionally the best months for both gyms as New Year’s resolutions kick in and memberships increase.
So the timing could not have been worse.
The cause was a smoking furnace motor, Kalesniko and Allen said, but upon further investigation, the regional fire department ordered the building closed.
Fire Chief Dan Derby confirmed that, indeed, the building owner had been warned.
“There has been fire orders on the building for 22 years,” said Derby. “And the only work that has been done is in the last 10 weeks. We are trying to work with the owner of the building and his representative to try and get to a level where we can work with them while there is occupancy and while the rest of the issues are being addressed,” he added.
“The violations are well known, and we can’t negotiate fire and life safety.”
The owner of the building, Amed Naqvi, a Nelson resident, said he addressed some of the code violations last month with approximately $20,000 worth of upgrades to the fire alarm system. He says, however, he needs more time to complete what is required.
“Apparently, there are new fire codes, and I’d be happy to address those fire codes, that’s my job,” Naqvi told the Times. “But the fire department is saying, ‘You must get this building up to the current fire code,’ and I said, ‘yes, but I also have to be able to pay for it.’”
The main floor of the building has been vacant for several years, and Naqvi contends that his rental income from the two second-floor gyms barely covers the cost of utilities. Naqvi says he understands his tenants’ frustrations and says he too would like to come to an agreement with the fire department.
“My challenge is the cost,” he said. “So I am hoping the fire chief will give me a reasonable time.”
Chief Derby told the Times that for the building to be reopened, what’s needed is “about two more weeks of work, plus or minus parts,” and a commitment from the building owner to complete the rest of the fire code upgrades in due course.
“I’m disappointed the fire department is being made out to be the bad guy here,” Derby said. “We’re just trying to do our job and hold this building owner accountable.
“From November of 2019 to November 2022 nothing was done, as a matter of fact, it was actually worse when we were called to the smoke situation.”
Derby says communication with Naqvi has been minimal, but he said he’s trying to be reasonable.
Naqvi told the Times that he was unaware of the two-week window and is meeting with Chief Derby this week.
“There is nothing more important for me than to get my tenants back in there, not just for myself, but also for them. If I can do just a couple more weeks of work to get the boys back in there, that would be great, and then we can look at the long term and say, ‘How much money can I spend?’”
Kalesniko and Allen said it is their livelihood that is suffering as well as the community because no one wants to see another empty building in downtown Trail.
“We need a mediator,” said Kalesniko. “We need somebody to sit with these two and do what’s best for the community.”
Kalesniko suggested getting the mayor (Trail Mayor Colleen Jones), council and Trail’s chief administrator Colin McClure to sit down with Naqvi and the fire department to hammer out a resolution.
“Maybe they can come to an agreement with them as arbitrator,” he said.
“It saves us, it saves that building, and it saves our block.”
McClure says he understands their concerns but fire regulations are independent of the city’s purview.
“It’s outside of our jurisdiction, again it’s the fire code, and that’s their authority to make sure a municipality doesn’t override life-safety,” said McClure. “We know and have confidence that Chief Derby is someone who can be worked with.”
Allen has been the owner/operator of Performance Fitness for the past eight years, the gym has been there for almost 30.
While some have suggested they relocate, moving either of the businesses would be a huge undertaking, since both have been entrenched and engaged at their Cedar Avenue locale for decades.
“It’s not even achievable, it has to stay where it is,” Allen pointed out. “There is no where else to go that is feasible.”
The only ones losing money are Glen and myself, he added.
“Am’s (building owner) is not losing money he’s just having to put in money that he had to anyway.”
For Performance Fitness, Pride Gym, and their following, until an agreement is reached, the weights will remain idle, the ring empty.
“They’re both standing with their heels in the sand and they’re not moving, and we are sitting in the middle, and we get nothing out of it except go under,” Kalesniko said.
“Honestly, it’s been a nightmare.”