Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 25, 2013

Film Fest's Bijou opening will be close shave

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Film Festival President Michael Moore looks heavenward, and Thom Darga has his fingers crossed as Con Foster Museum’s transformation into a movie theater pushes to within a razor’s edge of its scheduled grand opening.

Final inspection by the Grand Traverse County Construction Codes office, the fire marshal, and county health department will take place today and Friday. The new theater, dubbed Bijou by the Bay, is supposed to host a grand opening on Monday at 8 p.m. and show films during next week’s Film Festival.

“Keep your fingers crossed,” said Darga, the project’s general contractor. “If they do find something, I’ll have one day to fix it and get it reinspected.

“Hopefully, I’ll have my certificate of occupancy Friday afternoon,” he said.

City commissioners made it clear they want every permit in hand before the renovated building opens to the public. Monday night’s first screening at the Bijou by the Bay is a $500 a person fundraiser featuring a sneak preview of an upcoming Hollywood hit. It’s then scheduled to host screenings for the film festival beginning Wednesday at 9 a.m.

“I’ve been praying,” Moore said.

The city owns the building, so officials have met regularly to keep an eye on the project and receive regular updates from the county construction codes office. Several officials said they don’t want to pull the plug on the opening night gala, but don’t see a choice if permits are not in hand.

New city Manager Jered Ottenwess will make the final call and said he will wait until Monday to make a decision.

City Commissioner Jim Carruthers said Ottenwess asked his opinion about shutting down the Film Festival.

“I told him if he shut it down he will make national news,” Carruthers said. “But the commission has been clear.”

The commission focused on the permit issue after its new splash pad opened without any permits. A sewer pump failure pushed raw sewage into the underground reservoir that fed the splash pads’ sprinklers and doused children; about 15 subsequent illnesses were reported.

Inspectors already have made about three dozen visits in the eight weeks since the Bijou project began in early June, but Darga said he doesn’t believe he’s received extra scrutiny because of the splash pad.

“They haven’t cut me any slack, but they have been up-front about not cutting any corners from the beginning,” Darga said. “They have been polite, fair and shown up for inspections promptly, but we are being held to the letter of the law.”