The new owner of the historic Calumet Inn in the southwestern Minnesota city of Pipestone is appealing to the state Department of Labor and Industry the city’s decision to close the 1887 hotel.
The hotel has remained closed since March 10 in a dispute between the city and owner Tammy Grubbs over fire code violations. This week people in the community protested the city’s decision with a downtown rally fit for the age of coronavirus: Protesters held signs while standing 6 feet apart and tapped each other in to make sure no more than 10 people were gathered at a time.
“They’re just making this stuff up to try to drive her out of business,” said Greg Erickson, a Minneapolis attorney who is representing Grubbs. “They haven’t given us any explanation on why they had the authority to do it. Now they’re putting additional conditions on reopening. They just continue to come up with more reasons to keep her closed even though they had no authority to shut her down in the first place.”
The city’s mayor and acting mayor did not reply to requests for comment.
The dispute began after a routine fire inspection in November. The state deputy fire marshal gave Grubbs 90 days to fix a number of fire code violations, but he e-mailed the report not to Grubbs but to the previous owner.
Grubbs didn’t receive the report until March 6. A city building officer visited the building and ordered it closed a few days later.
Grubbs also said the city is closing the building using incorrect information. For example, Grubbs said the city claimed the building needed to fix ceiling problems in a storage room and a laundry room, but the building couldn’t remain open when the issues were fixed because interior walls in the kitchen and lounge were from 1887. But those walls had been replaced in the 1980s, Grubbs said.
The city is also requiring Grubbs to hire a structural engineer to evaluate whether the roof has proper load-bearing capacity because the building has a new air-conditioning unit. But the roof is new, and the new air conditioning unit is 1,500 pounds lighter than the old one, Erickson said.
“Something’s behind this,” Grubb said. “Something is definitely not right here.”