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Bay Spring Coffeehouse Shut Down

Second floor's lack of ADA compliance forces community center board to scramble to find a way to use it as a performance venue.

Forget about the Bay Spring Community Center serving up any coffeehouses for a while.

The community center’s nine-person volunteer board must come up with a way to make the second floor of the building, where the shows were held, compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Barrington Town Manager Peter DeAngelis Jr. said he put a halt to the musical shows on the second floor after learning about its use for the ever more-popular coffeehouses, which drew up to 100 music fans and performers.

“There are issues with the second floor that have to be addressed,” DeAngelis said. 

The primary issue is the lack of an elevator or lift that makes the second floor compliant with the federal law, he said. A secondary issue is the apparent misunderstanding or miscommunication about the use of the second floor in the Narragansett Avenue fire station renovated with money from a facilities bond several years ago.

“We had a dialogue on what can and cannot be done with the building,” DeAngelis said. “We all seem to be on the same page now. It’s water over the dam.”

David Parkhurst, a spokesman for the community center board, said: “We had our hands slapped” even though he believes there is some mutual culpability with the town.

But that confrontation is in the past, Parkhurst said. The board is looking to the future.

“We share their concern,” Parkhurst said. “We appreciate where they’re coming from. Safety is our first and foremost concern as well.”

He said the board is looking at the situation as “a short-term loss and a long-term gain.”

“It was always the board’s plan to get it (second floor) compliant,” he said.

The board met late last week to come up with a plan of action to address the lack of compliance, he said.  It followed a meeting with DeAngelis and Rhode Island’s ADA compliance officer, who visited the building last week to offer some guidance.

Parkhurst said the board expects to put a plan together over the next couple of weeks. It could include a significant fundraising effort.

The installation of an outside lift, for instance, is estimated to cost up to $40,000, according to Larson Gunness, who was instrumental in putting together the coffeehouses although he does not serve on the board.

“We all felt we had an okay” for the coffeehouses, Gunness said of the volunteers who worked with him to develop the performances. 

Putting in an elevator could cost as much as $150,000, a much more difficult financial hurdle to get over, Gunness said.

Parkhurst said the board also is looking into either incorporating as a new nonprofit organization, perhaps as Friends of the Bay Spring Community Center, or reincorporating under the Bay Spring Crime Watch organization, which was active in the 1970s and 1980s. 

As a nonprofit, they could raise funds more easily, including applying for public and private grants.

Everyone connected with the Bay Spring Community Center does seem to be cooperating with the town on solving the problem with compliance, which could take up to a year.

“Everyone wants to do the right thing,” Gunness said. “The town has totally made themselves helpful.”

“That building has all kinds of potential” for anyone in the community, said DeAngelis, “with limitations.”

Lack of parking is another issue, although many people attending the coffeehouses parked in the nearby lot at Atria Bay Spring Village.

Fortunately, DeAngelis said, the second floor has a sprinkler system that was installed at the same time the first floor was “sprinklered” -- thanks to the foresight of the fire chief. 

"That place is magic" for the coffeehouses, said Gunness of the second floor.

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