The Strip Club is Falling Down, My Fair Lady

strip-club

Some days you just feel like quitting your job.

On Friday, the roof and several walls of the Cloakroom on K St NW collapsed- leaving the employees of the establishment to wait on the sidewalk in their me-oh-mys while the fire department cleared the building. The collapse was apparently due to shoddy, possibly illegal construction work being done in the basement which destabilized already-weak walls.

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This photo, courtesy of @DCfireandems, shows the extent of the damage to the roof and walls.

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This one is courtesy of CBS Local showing the K Street NW facade.

The Cloakroom opened in 2013 and billed itself as “DC’s newest and most luxurious gentlemen’s club”. Renovations to the old Louis’ Rogue club at the time included a double-height main stage with two thirty-foot “dance poles” (y’all, a dancer may also be a stripper but it’s rude to assume), new furnishings, and new systems.

Previous photos posted on PoPville on April 4, 2014 appear to show significant cracks in the walls that weren’t there in the previous January 2013 article on the same building.

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According to DC permit records, major renovation work was done in 2013 prior to the new opening and a new permit for more major structural work was approved on 3/13/2014. Apparently, the first attempt at getting the new work approved was not successful and the comments for the initial application read as follows:

1. address previous comments, and schedule conference with the engineer.

2. provide purpose of underpinning on cover sheet s-1.

3. revise scope or permit type, framing is not allowed under foundation permit.

4. provide a signed dc surveyor’s plat; show existing and proposed scope of work on plat.

5. provide dcra formatted neighbor notification letter and copy of certified mail receipt or a signed letter per the requirement of dcmr 12 section 3307a.

6. show location of property line on submitted foundation plan and underpinning section.(sheet s1).

7. submit colored photographs of test pit at each exterior wall to show the existing footings and other information with detailed dimensions.

8. clarify the isolated footings are existing or new, if existing show the location of the existing footing on plans submitted.

9. provide the existing 1st floor framing plans and show span dimensions on proposed framing plan. verify the proposed beam and joists are structurally sound by submitting a calculation sheet.

10. provide a complete structural certification per the requirement of dcmr 12 section 106.1.4.1 11. provide the construction cost agreement form. written responses will be highly appreciated.

Clearly someone may have fudged some information for #9. Well done, DCRA.

It’s not clear from the permit summary exactly what was happening under the building, but it appears that major excavation was going on in the basement and a source at the scene of the event commented that “they wanted to add another floor” to the club. An article in the Washington Post also noted that it appeared that the rear wall of the building was “undergoing expansion”.

So were we to put on our preservation deerstalker hats (and nothing else, oh my!) and picture the strip club prior to its collapse there are three main factors:

1. Possible removal of structural material during installation of the center stage area, i.e. removal of floor joists

2. Major work to the foundations of the building and all the vibrations (sorry) that work may have created– from what is conveyed by DC tax records, that building didn’t have a full-height basement prior to the recent construction so any foundation work may also have  involved significant earth removal.

3. Penetrations (again, sorry!) in the rear bearing wall for new construction as observed by the Post.

Add these structural stressors to environmental ones, i.e. torrential rains that may have destabilized the soil around the foundations, and the loud music, high-impact dancing, and heavy furniture (bars, drinks storage, stages) that are endemic to clubs and lounges. Result? Apparently, a collapsed building.

Of course, even if the building owners had all the appropriate permits and even if the construction contractors were doing everything exactly as they should- I sincerely hope that OSHA got a phone call from the Cloakroom employees. According to the code posted in every office break room:

Every employer:

(1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

I believe a collapsing building qualifies as a “recognized hazard”.

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