Building Chief Says North Bay Village Assume Deck Had Been Inspected

A visual inspection of Shuckers’ Bar & Grill showed the deck gave way because of old age, according to North Bay Village’s Chief Building Official.

“There is exposed corroded steel,” said Raul Rodriguez, who has served as the building official for several other small Miami-Dade cities.

The concrete blocks covering reinforced steel supporting the deck had deteriorated and that much of the steel itself was eaten away, he said Monday in a press conference, four days after the deck of the popular spot collapsed, injuring 24 people as fans cheered on the Miami Heat.

Rodriguez also said Monday that after closely studying a required 40-year inspection for the restaurant and bar, he did not find any mention of an inspection of the deck.

Still, he said, the 40-year inspection determined all buildings and structures and electrical outlets on the property were in good working order – which village officials thought included the deck.

The inspection, done by Engineer Steven Jawitz, includes pictures of the deck, Rodriguez said.

“We took it for granted that the whole thing was in there,” said Rodriguez, who signed off on the completed inspection in January.

Copies of the inspection had not made available as of Monday.

Last Thursday evening, the restaurant’s 120-foot long deck snapped in a v-shape, sending about 100 people into four feet of Biscayne Bay water.

The next day, the village’s Public Works director said the 40-year inspection required for all commercial buildings mentioned the deck as part of the evaluation.

Jawitz, who wrote the January report, responded that Miami-Dade County building code does not require the deck to be inspected. He said he only cleared the building and its electrical system. He refused to say why the deck wasn’t inspected, or whether that decision was his or the restaurant’s owners.

“I wish I could tell you more,” he said.

North Bay Village abides by the county building code for commercial and residential properties. Miriam Rossi, a county spokeswoman for the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, clarified the county’s interpretation of the code on Monday.

She said it requires that all buildings and structures be determined safe by an engineer qualified through the state, like Jawitz.

She also said the county interprets that to mean restaurant decks must be inspected.

“The deck area is an assembly area of the restaurant and is used to seat and serve patrons; this area is part of the building. Consequently, it should be included in the 40-year recertification,” Rossi said in an email.

Another unanswered question: What was the capacity of the deck?

County fire rescue officials have said the internal restaurant can accommodate up to 74 people, but that it was the engineer’s responsibility to determine how many people could safely occupy the deck.

At Monday’s press conference in Shuckers parking lot, Rodriguez would not answer questions about how much weight the deck could safely hold, leaving that up the county Fire Marshal.

Rodriguez was asked if he planned to take a look at any other commercial waterfront decks inside the little village that separates Miami Beach from the mainland. The building official called it “a good point,” and said it hadn’t occurred to him.

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