Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Dead in the Water.....

I have been purposely vague when the question of "when will you be open" gets asked.  Since you can't ever say for sure until all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed I have been cautious not to commit to a specific launch date.  Sure I've had a timeline in my head ever since last March when I first registered the business.  At that time the best I would say to anyone was "probably winter 2011/2012".  As things began to progress with construction I began to narrow it down to "late first quarter 2012".  Even as recently as the beginning of March I was optimistic that there would be beer in the fermenter by March 31st, just in time for an early April launch.  That would put me pretty close to what I was thinking over a year ago.  Not a bad guesstimate if you ask me.

Being ever the pessimist I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Something to come along to screw everything up.  I previously mentioned the issues I had with the walk-in refrigeration back at the beginning of March.  Well after much consternation and many a phone call, we now have the "right" refrigeration system.  Unfortunately that turned out to be a three week mistake by the original supplier.

So the "new" target brew date became the first half of April.  Disheartening, but still not too far off the original estimate...until I had my electrical inspection last Friday.

Let me back up for a minute.  In order to conduct business in my place I must have a city building occupancy permit.  This is essentially the final culmination of the building permit process that "blesses" your building for use.  It started way back in August with the overall building permit application.  It was promptly denied due to a few minor things that were missing on the drawings.  After an architect revision and a few other hoops we had permission to start work in early October.  The plumbers and electricians then procured their permits and we were off and running.  An inspection of the bathroom framing, plumbing and electrical was needed before we could drywall.  That was done in December.  Once all the fixtures are installed you must get a final plumbing and electrical inspection and then finally, a final building inspection.  The final plumbing was done in February - no sweat.  The building and plumbing inspections are done by the city and believe it or not they have been great to work with (so far).  The electrical inspection is done by an outside company called IBI (Inspection Bureau Inc.) and from what I can tell Cincinnati is the only municipality in the US that "outsources" their electrical inspections.  Instead of the inspections being done by a city inspector who gets paid by the hour they are done by a for profit company that gets paid PER VISIT.  That means if they have to inspect you more than once, they get paid more than once.  This incentivizes the inspector to find at least one thing wrong so that they get to come back.  Ahh, the "free enterprise" system at work.

Due to the snafu with the walk-in, I couldn't get the final bits of wiring done until late last week.  When the electrical inspector came he had an issue with the gas burner on my kettle.  Apparently it is not UL (Underwriters Labs) listed.  UL is the little insignia that you see on extension cords and other electrical devices that lets you know it is approved for use in the US by an independent third party.  The inspector will not sign off without seeing a UL listing for the burner.  The problem is the burner was made in China (with German components) and does not have a UL listing.  It has a CE listing which is the European Union equivalent (and is actually more stringent than UL from what I can tell), but that apparently doesn't fly here in the good old U.S. of A.


I have worked as an engineer in a few factories in my day.  I was involved with UL a little bit in my last job as we had to maintain a UL listing for the products we made so I am somewhat familiar with the process.  In an industrial environment very little equipment is UL listed.  A factory contains a lot of custom built equipment, often from foreign manufacturers, for which you will find no UL listing.  It is specialized equipment and would be prohibitively expensive and time consuming to have every individual piece of equipment certified by UL (certification costs start at $4,500 per item and go up from there).  But what can you do?  You can't argue with an inspector or they will make your life a lot worse.

So what DO I do?  Well it looks like the path of least resistance is to buy a new burner that is UL listed.  After a few frantic calls the folks at Stoermer-Anderson (shameless plug) are setting me up with what I need.  Unfortunately it is going to take a few weeks to get here.....

Ugghh.  So the "new new" brew date is probably more like the end of April.  That's assuming the electrical inspector signs off on it and we don't have any issues with the final building inspection (which is a big assumption).

Don't get me wrong, I knew crap like this would come up, but it still sucks when it does.  I'm so close I can almost taste it and I'm at the point where time costs more than money.  So in the meantime I'll keep working on little projects, and continuing to try and find the hops that I need (a story for another day).

As far as the original question of "when will you be open".....let's just leave it at...soon....

Caution: "Dangerous Equipment"