Here's the kind of bureaucratic red tape we have to deal with all the time: the City's plan checker wanted a one word change in one of our plans. He wanted the word "mezzanine" changed to "second floor." He wanted the engineer who drew up that plan to show up in person to make this change and initial it. Apparently it couldn't be faxed, or couriered. So then the engineer spent a day back and forth on the phone, arguing with the guy about how silly this is. And lost the argument. And then spent another two days trying to reach the guy to make an appointment with him to come do this thing. And the actual appointment got set for days later. Meanwhile, another week went by before we got final approval on those plans. Sigh.

Let me emphasize that this was not an isolated incident. It's like this all the time. Every step of the way.

The heavy girder work is done: there are more than a dozen girders reinforcing the balcony now, all welded together and bolted into place. Also, the first traces of the new upstairs railing have shown up. The footing of the railing (the foot-rest bar, which also doubles as the "don't accidentally kick a dropped cup off the balcony" wall) is in place, and bolted to the edge of the balcony. This is a set of I-beams that are about eight inches high and four inches thick.

There are two guys doing all this metal work, and it's absolutely terrifying to watch them work. Every time I watch them for more than half a minute I start thinking, "ok, this time they're going to drop that thousand pound beam. This time one of them's going to lose a leg for sure." But they never have! They lift the things up with a hand-crank forklift, then get up on a precariously-balanced ladder, and slide and shove and whack the thing into place. It always looks like it's about six inches from coming crashing down until the bolts finally go in.

The downstairs speaker wire is in place. This is some serious wire! Each cable is about an inch thick, and has six conductors inside it (since each bundle of speakers has separate inputs for high, midrange, and bass.) We had our electricians run four inch flexible metal conduit along the underside of the balcony for the speaker wire to go inside of; this protects it, and also looks darned cool. There's one down each side of the balcony, and a third down once side that will be for the snake (the many-channels conductor that goes between the sound board and each microphone on stage.) After these conduits were in place, the sound guys came out to run the wire: they threaded it into the conduit by first pushing a stiff wire through, and taping the end of the bundle of cables to that, and then pulling really hard.

They lubed up the cables with KY jelly to make this job go, uh, smoother. I am not making this up.

The plumbers are just about done with the in-the-wall stuff in the downstairs bathrooms; as they're finishing up the last of the work on the men's room, the drywall-and-tile guys are coming up behind them, working on the women's room. First they covered the wall frames with plywood; then on top of that went drywall; and on top of that will go tile. The reason for the plywood is to that if someone has a temper tantrum in the bathroom and kicks the wall, their foot won't go through it. The reason for the drywall is that you can't stick tile directly to plywood, for some reason I didn't bother to find out. (This isn't normal drywall, it's some bathroom-specific kind. I guess it's more waterproof or something.)

Once the tile is done, we get toilets!

Oh, speaking of toilets. The toilets we bought have their seats 15" above the floor. (Which is the same as on the perfectly normal looking toilet I have at home, I just checked.) But oh no no no, the planning code says that, for handicapped accessibility reasons, toilet seats must be 17" inches off the ground! So we'll have to build 2" spacers under each toilet. And these can't just be a couple of sheets of plywood, because it's a bathroom, so it has to be sealed, yadda yadda yadda, so they have to actually make molds and pour these things out of concrete or something like that. This isn't a particularly big deal, but it's just one more stupid detail.

They can only close up one side of the bathroom walls, because we haven't gotten our plumbing inspection yet, and if both sides were in place, the inspector wouldn't be able to see the pipes. So they're closing the inside, which is where the tile will go.

And once the drywall is on, we have to have an inspector come out and look at it before they can glue tile to it. Why? Because they might have not put the screws the regulation number of inches apart. Why is a city inspector involved in this? I mean think about it, what's the failure mode here? The contractor is licensed, and is obliged to guarantee his work. So if they didn't put the drywall up properly, and it, I dunno, fell down or something, the contractor would be the one who got screwed, because he'd have to fix it for free. So he's highly motivated to not have that happen. Yet there we are, getting slowed down at every turn because we have to schedule time with the bureaucracy to make sure that everyone is acting in their own best interests.

Clearly we have entirely too much government.


After seeing the bathrooms come together, I'm a little concerned that they might be too cramped. It turns out that there are both "standard" and "legal minimum" sizes for bathroom stalls, and we're using the minimum size, to fit in as many fixtures as possible. But it seems like everyone else in the world uses the "standard" size, so ours are going to seem pretty tight. But, it was a choice between having three toilets and five...

The electricians are working on getting power run to everything upstairs. They've run the power from the transformer to the location of the dimmer packs (the glorified potentiometers that make the stage lights go bright and dark) and from there out onto the beams, where the lights will be mounted on truss. They're also running regular non-dimmed power various places. They're doing this all in flexible metal conduit, and not bothering to hide it, because it looks so cool (it stands out a lot: shiny metal tentacles bolted to flat black concrete walls.)

The carpenters have finished building the forms for the front windows to be filled in. One of the next things they'll be doing is putting bigger door-holes in both upstairs bathrooms. See, all we're changing about those bathrooms is putting new toilets in them, and painting: the walls are staying in the same place. But oh no no no, that counts a remodel (or triggers some nuance of the law in some arcane way) and as a result, the doors have to be handicapped-accessible. That means that two-and-a-half foot wide doors aren't good enough (even though they've been there for twenty years.) We need to put three foot wide doors on those bathrooms. The bathrooms on the second floor. The part of the club that someone in a wheelchair cannot get to because they're (thankfully!) not making us put in an elevator.

We met with our sheet metal guy, and have pretty much worked out where the ventilation duct-work will be going. It sounds like we've figured out how to get it into fairly nonintrusive places (I was worried that it would be taking up a lot of room and make the ceiling feel lower in some spots: some of these ducts are two and a half feet across...)

Layer two of the floor sandwich has been poured. To recap: we already had a big ol' concrete floor. But it was not particularly level or smooth from wall to wall. So first a thin layer of "self-levelling" something-or-other concrete-like substance gets poured over it, to make it be flat and level; then on top of that goes a sheet of something soft and springy, then on top of that, two layers of plywood (attached to each other, but not to the floor.) Then paint. That'll make the floor nice and bouncy. If we didn't level the floor before putting the plywood down, there would be soft spots, and the wood would be all torn up in a year. Or so we're told.

So first, they had to rough up the surface of the floor, and get all the old paint off and so on. They did this with a "bead blaster": like a sand blaster, but it fires tiny plastic beads at the floor. (Hereafter referred to as "the Zamboni.") It took two guys to operate this thing. Now, perhaps I'm missing some important detail about the subtlety required in Zamboni operation, but as far as I could tell, they each took four 10 minute breaks per hour. The process seemed to go like this:

Turn on the Zamboni. One guy slowly pushes it forward about six feet, and then back. The other guy follows along with a little hand-roll sweeper thing. Turn off the Zamboni. Look at the Zamboni. Discuss. Wander away. Wander back. Discuss. Turn on the Zamboni, and repeat. Oops! Break time!

Meanwhile, nobody else was in here working, because we were told that the building had to be completely empty while they did this: that nobody could be on the floor. So all other work stopped for two days (thursday and friday), until the floor was in. But (prepare to be shocked!) they told us that they weren't going to be done in time, and would need to also come back monday, and maybe tuesday. Meanwhile we've got all kinds of stuff scheduled for monday, including deliveries of stuff that needs to sit on that floor. So Steve (our general contractor) spent an hour or two yelling first at these guys, then at their boss. When he explained "be done before monday or don't get paid," they decided that coming in on saturday to finish the job would not be too terrible a hardship for them.

Anyway, they finished their Zambonification on friday morning. After that, they jackhammered down a few high spots on the floor (using a jackhammer attachment that looks like a meat tenderizing hammer, that turns concrete to dust.)

The way they plotted out the new plane for the floor was kind of clever: they drilled screws into the floor near the walls, and strung up a grid of thread, with 6'x6' cells. Then they raised and lowered the endpoints of the strings until all the crossings lined up: at that point, they had a level plane. For the outer edges, they cheated a little bit, and angled things down very slightly to make it line up with the existing floor in some important spots, like where the stairs touch down. After that was done, they put screws into the floor at each intersection, at the same height as the strings. Then the strings came out, and when they poured the floor, they made sure that each 6'x6' section lined up with the screws at the corner. They also painted down a layer of some kind of pink glue for the new stuff to stick to. It looked like someone dumped fifty gallons of Pepto Bismol in here.

There are a few new holes cut in the roof now, where the fans will sit for the new ventilation system. They use a flame thrower ("torch" is just not a strong enough word to describe this thing) to attach tar-like roofing material to the plywood frames. Fire's cool.

The first truckload of sheet metal for the ventilation system has arrived, and they've started hanging it. There's a lot of this stuff; This appears to be another case of us being forced to massively over-engineer things because the building codes require it, since they're geared toward office buildings and places that want to be a constant 72 degrees, instead of a nightclub... But we need something or it will be over a hundred degrees in here once it's full of bodies; and as with so many things, if you build anything, you have to build way too much.

The guys from JK have been out here hanging the support from which the center cluster of speakers will be suspended; they build a welded metal frame, and it hooks in to the ceiling in several places with steel cables. Barry had an entertaining conversation with one of them the other day:

Noewell: Hey, do you have a calculator?
Barry: (Hands over his Palm Pilot.)
Noewell: (Looks...) No, I need one that can do square roots.
Barry: Huh??
Noewell: You know, Pythagorean Theorem?
Barry: Uhhhhh...
Noewell: A2 + B2 = C2?
I'm hanging a diagonal cable, and I know the width and height and need to know how long to cut it?
Barry: So this is that actual real world use of geometry that they told us about! I didn't believe it! I never expected to see this happen!

Hear that, kids? Stay in school.

A lot of stuff got done this week!

The ductwork for the ventilation system is mostly installed, and it is very cool looking! I didn't expect it to look as neat as it does. There's a roof penetration near the front of the building, and from there, a 3' duct starts worming its way around the perimeter of the building, shrinking down to 1' at the ends. There's a fan on the roof that blows air into this duct from outside. Then there's another vent in a big metal box up in the rafters above the stage that sucks air out (the two vents are not connected except via the air in the room.) We don't have the roof fans yet.

The lighting truss above the stage has been mounted; it is also very cool looking. Each segment of truss is made up of four pipes, and there are four segments, so it's a squared tube roughly circling the stage. The stage lights (par cans, mostly) will be bolted to this. There are also a bunch of segments of steel pipe bolted to the ceiling beams; this is where we will hang the Technobeams and strobes for the dance floor lighting. Most of the electrical work for these mounting points has also been done, so we ought to be able to actually hang lights from them real soon now...

The center cluster of speakers are up, hanging from the steel cage that was installed last week. There are three of them, pointed forward and to the sides. These are for sound upstairs on the balcony (so that when you're upstairs, you aren't hearing the band filtered through the floor, and thus getting only low end.)

The downstairs bar is framed out, as are the walls for the new ticket booth and entryway. The walls around the entryway are 8" thick, and will be filled with sand, for soundproofing purposes. (A lot of sound leaks through open doors, so the entryway is kind of S-shaped to act as a sound baffle.) The plumbers have been working on the pipes that go to, from, and inside all three bars.

The walk-in refrigerator in the back has been completed (it's twice as large as it used to be, and has a new compressor.) The compressors for the ice makers have been installed on the roof (though the ice makers themselves have not been hooked up yet.)

Our new stools have arrived, as have the booths/benches for upstairs (though the latter haven't been assembled or installed yet.)

And finally, the concrete infills for the front wall has been done! I got to carve my initials in the wall of the building, 25' up. A dozen guys came in early in the morning and brought in a giant hose from a cement truck on the street; they sprayed the concrete at the wall, and smoothed it over as it glopped on. This stuff is called "shotcrete," which I gather is the kind of concrete that is viscous enough that you can spray it on a wall without needing to have forms on both sides. So, by tomorrow morning, we'll have a solid concrete front wall and no windows, which should help our soundproofing situation a lot.

It's really starting to look like a club now...

The front face of the railing has been installed, so the railing is pretty much finished now, except for the drink shelf. There are really two railings: there are upright posts supporting the angled piece of tube steel that you lean against; and in front of that is an angled railing filled with a 4" steel mesh. A low shelf for drinks sits in the V between these two railings. The dj platform is also finished: it has a similar railing on the front, and floor made of tightly spaced steel bands. We're probably going to put down solid rubber mats on top of that, to avoid leaks if a dj spills a drink, and to make it easier to walk on in heels.

The "stabilizing fins" on the front of the railing are also in place, as are steel tubes wrapping the wooden columns that hold up the balcony. Now it looks like the balcony is supported by rusty tube steel instead of wood, a drastic improvement. This place no longer looks the slightest bit like a barn.

Our amps and speakers have arrived, and are about halfway hooked up.

Most of the downstairs lights have been installed, and the lighting console has been hooked up, though it hasn't been programmed yet. "Most of them" includes six Technobeams (giant rotating-mirror lights), two StudioSpots (the whole light rotates in almost any direction, it's like some kind of crazy light-droid), six strobes, about 40 parcans, and a bunch of smaller par-like lights under the balcony for architectural lighting. What it doesn't include is six more trackspots that will be mounted on the underside of the balcony! And the lighting console runs all of these...

The duct work is complete, except for the roof fans. They were supposed to be installed today, but through some typical miscommunication, someone thought they weren't going to be arriving on time and cancelled the crane. So it looks like they're going in early next week.

The maze of duct work in the upstairs back room is pretty incredible; I told them to keep the ceiling above the upstairs dance floor free of ductwork, because I like that it has a really high ceiling there, and by pushing it off to the side rooms, it got rather... tangled. Everyone who has come in here and looked at it has said, "that isn't actually hooked up to anything, is it? You just did that to make it look like Brazil." But no, that's just how it came out...