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In the wake of disaster...

While our thoughts and prayers this week go out to those families afflicted by the horrendous events in Oakland, I feel enraged that events like this which are truly preventable can still happen in our society. Here in NYS we are facing all of the same issues as California, as each and every other state does, when it comes to our state and local authorities over fire, safety and building codes.

Over the last 5-7 years we have seen a new trend in the wedding industry in particular. This is the use of “rustic barns” and DIY warehouse venues to be used as the locale of the couples’ dreams to perform their nuptials in front of family and friends. However – these are not being held on the family property – instead “pop up” venues have sprouted all over the state to entice the couples to use their farm buildings and grounds for their events, in exchange for thousands of dollars in rental fees per day.

While everyone deserves to have their wedding as the picture perfect event – this should not be done at the risk of public safety. NY State Codes mandate that “all mass gathering facilities of 99 or more” meet the bare minimum in terms of risk and liability in order to operate for public use. These standard codes include, but are not limited to: Fire suppression, panic hardware, minimum egress per room in buildings, lit exit signs, evacuation routes, outswing doors, handicap accessibility – including bathrooms, door widths, elevators, ramps, etc. to be sure that the public is safe during their use of the facility and property.

In the last 5 years – there have come to be well over 400-700 PUBLICIZED “rustic barn” venues alone that have opened their doors just in upstate NY– without operating under any of these guidelines ( and many additional which are not advertising in mass media outlets). The worst part is that if there were to be an emergency during any of the events at their properties – there are no guidelines or codes in place to protect those renting for the day. Another Oakdale situation will be on our hands. Owners have usually just opened their doors, looking to make some quick cash, without ever taking the safety of their clients into consideration. Some have gone through their town to obtain a “variance” to allow them to use the facility in its “rustic condition” so as it will not detract from the aesthetic appeal to those wishing to have the true farm feel on their day. By doing so – these town code officers are in complete violation of upholding the bare minimum safety standards that the public is relying on them for to be sure the building is safe. On top of that – the town now has taken on the responsibility and liability for any accidents occurring as they have permitted the facility to operate without these set safety standards in place.

When the local code officers do not perform their duties on the public behalf, it completely nullifies the entire point of having the minimum NYS Codes within our state. It also puts the town liable for accidents within that property as they are the ones responsible for granting the permits to operate with variances, or have turned cheek and allowed them to just operate with no permits at all.

In addition to codes being overlooked for public safety, it now becomes a local tax payer concern when the town now is held liable for allowing the facility to operate not up to code and an accident does happen. On top of all of this – it develops a completely un-level playing field for legitimate businesses who have been investing everything they have to be up to the standards the state expects. We now have hundreds of facilities opening their doors and pulling away business from licensed and permitted venues operating under the scrutiny of state and local regulations as competition.

Venues that have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to install ADA compliant equipment, fire suppression, water systems, etc . are now feeling the hurt when these new “pop up” barns or diy facilities just open their doors – never spending a penny on public safety protocol and steal away clients that are unaware of the dangers associated with hosting their event on a facility not in the least bit compliant with codes. The original use of these “rustic” buildings had been for agriculture ( typically housing hay upstairs in loft areas, and animals down in lower levels) or warehouses (for containing equipment, chemicals, etc). Flooring systems, roof structures, and the stability of the building itself was never intended for public use, mass gatherings, dancing, food preparation or serving, or the many other events that take place during the rentals. Granting variances or turning the other cheek when these farms or venues open their doors is hurting everyone – except for the owner of the facility who is doing nothing but profiting at the expense of others.

We are asking as concerned citizens, taxpayers, and business owners that NYS, and all states, ensure we have a level and fair playing field for all….and to help prevent more disasterous and life taking situations and learn from Oakdale.

Please help to enforce the same safety rules and guidelines for everyone. Towns need to take on the responsibility of ensuring that businesses run legitimately, with all public safety standards in place – NO EXCEPTIONS.

We are asking for your help and support to stand behind the legally running venues and businesses, and require ALL operations be up to code before allowing the public’s safety to fall into jeopardy, creating a health and safety risk for customers, unfair competition for legitimate venues, and a tax burden to the local community.

Learn from our past so we can make our future brighter....

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