City of Corpus Christi

We talked to the city of Corpus Christi before filing for any alcohol licensing to make sure that the location was appropriate. They confirmed that the location was in the correct zoning. If we do not make any permanent changes to the building, then the inspections from the previous tenant would also remain valid. I would love to go back and punch that person in the face. It was a complete lie, and cost us two extra months time.

While the zoning statement was correct, all the inspections had to be redone. I think the official reason they gave us for having to redo all the inspections was because we changed it’s use. They should have known this when we talked to them and told them what we were going to do. It turns out that the more times you call the city the more different answers you will get. On the plus side call enough times and you might get an answer you want to hear.

Inspections

Since we changed the buildings use, we have to get a new Certificate of Occupancy. That requires getting electrical, plumbing, mechanical, building, fire, health and vector inspections. We got the privilege of paying $801.00 to get a new certificate, and to waste two months of rent, all with a side of pointless headaches.

Plumbing:

This one got us. We ran our temporary water piping with PVC because it is, cheap, easy and it gets the job done. It turns out using PVC to run water in the city of Corpus Christi is against code. Running the drain piping in PVC is acceptable though. Which makes little sense, since they claim it is because of excessive heat breaking weakening the PVC over time. I would like to have been able to read this code. It also turns out that only a licensed plumber can install plumbing, and they must get a permit to do so. “We” are not licensed plumbers, so we had to pay a licensed plumber to install it and pay for permit to do so. Only in the government do you get the joy of paying for permits to get permits. We paid the city another $100+ for this this anti-DIY plumbing permit, plus we got to hire a plumber to redo what we just did, on top of the $801.

As I alluded to we ended up removing all the pvc piping that we ran, and replaced it with CPVC to pass inspection. A waste of time and money that will make zero difference.

The inspector was a complete jerk, every time he found a problem he would smile. It seemed with every extra problem the smile got a little bit larger. As if he took joy in failing us. If he would have worked for a private company I would have kicked him out of the building and never done business with the company again. But this is the government, there is no competition.

I understand we used the wrong material, and we were wrong in doing so, but we could not find anywhere to read this “code” they enforce. For all we know they just make up stuff as they go. If it had not been for my knowledgeable neighbor this would have been even worse.

Electrical:

We failed this because one of our walk in coolers was not yet hooked up and had loose wires. Simple fix.

It turns out we didn’t need a licensed electrician to install the electrical items. We are free to electrocute and kill ourself, but heaven forbid a pipe should drip!

Mechanical:

Passed.

Building:

Passed, since nothing permanent was done to the building itself.

Fire

It is the year 2014 and the fire inspectors do not have cell phones they can use to call before they head to a business. They said they would be there between 1 pm and 5 pm. This is hard when we have a regular day job still and cannot just be waiting around for hours. On the positive side, they showed up at 1:15.

The inspection itself went well, and our one fire extinguisher was enough. There is not much flammable items in there. We could have a bonfire in the center of the building without risk of burning it down. The ping pong table might be the largest thing to burn.

Health

Everything we read about the city health department made it seem to only apply to retail food establishments. We are not retail, only manufacturing so it would appear we are exempt. From reading about other breweries experiences it seems that most do not get inspected at all. This is because a brewery is not regulated by the FDA, but instead by the TTB. So we were not sure if we would be exempt from inspection or not.

Other breweries have said the best advice is to avoid being inspected is to “in the nicest way possible” make the inspector show what gives them legal jurisdiction to inspect a brewery. Luckily we didn’t have to go that far. The last thing we need is someone who knows absolutely zero about beer making to tell us what we should be doing. First off, nothing can grow in beer that will make a person sick. Second if some wild yeast or other microbes do start growing in the beer it will taste terrible and no one would want to drink it, nor would we sell it.

The first time we called and got a person, they could not tell us if they needed to inspect it or not and said they would call us back and let us know. Well they never called, so we called back a few more times over the next two weeks left a few messages. But no calls back, finally when we called again on a Friday we got to talk to someone and they had an inspector give us a call a few minutes later. The inspector said that they would have to “inspect us to see if we needed to be inspected“. Government efficiency right there. Confused by this, I thought, does the law say you need to inspect us or not? It seems like a simple answer. I tried to argue that point (as nicely as something like that can be argued) but this made them irritated and defensive so I backed off. The last thing we want is a pissed off inspector to create reasons to fail us. We scheduled an inspection for the following Monday morning.

A different inspector showed up for the inspection and examined everything. He was extremely nice and had a few minor things that we corrected right then, and it passed.

They never told us if they needed to inspect us, nor if they ever would again.

Vector

Vector was very simple, they came out looked around at whatever they look for and gave us the OK.

Conclusion

It took two months for all these inspections.

We had to contacted each department independently, which makes it to where no one knows what is going on, there is no clear leader.

On top of the fact that they don’t know what is going on, neither do we.

  • These magical codes they enforce are hard to find, and the inspectors don’t seem to completely know them either.
  • There are no steps that say what we, the business owner, need to do.
  • We just hacked things in the ways that we need for them to work and hoped everything would pass. A terrible approach that luckily somehow worked.

Like I said in the first paragraph of this, the first person we talked to said we would not even have to do ANY of these inspections. If only that had remained true.

It was normal for person A to send us to person B who would send us to person C who would send us back to person A. Upon returning to person A we would get what we needed. It is extremely frustrating.

Very few people in this city government have a clue what they are doing.

Looking back, it is a simple process. But the pointless hassles, and untrained employees, make it very complicated.

Dear city of Corpus Christi

Get your shit together!

  1. Train your employees
  2. Create some simple guidelines for new businesses
  3. Know the codes your enforcing
  4. Make these codes easily accessible to us

Your making it WAY harder than it should be. If you want new local businesses to open instead of more shitty corporate chains then you need to do something about it! You need to help them. Currently you are only helping us waste our precious start up time and money.

With a lighter wallet and a pounding headache, we got approval.

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