Washington County VA

Can bar rebuild after fire?

Can bar rebuild after fire?

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Tenn. - The owners of a bar that featured exotic dancers may be looking to reopen after a January fire closed their doors.

On January 10, 2013 a fire damaged The Mouse's Ear bar in Gray, Tennessee. Click here to read more.

Now, a phone call to the county zoning office may hint the owner is hoping to reopen. "This is the particular section of the code he questioned," said Washington County, Tennessee Zoning Administrator Michael Rutherford while indicating a page in the county's code. "I basically went over it line by line. I think I answered all of his questions."

Rutherford says he talked to the owner by phone Monday, but that no one has been in to apply for a permit.

If someone wants to reopen a business after a fire there are several standards that have to be met, especially if they're grandfathered into old zoning rules like The Mouse's Ear was.

If a business wants to rebuild under the old rules, there's a catch. The county has to determine just how much of this building is damaged. If it's more than 75 percent they have to use the current standards; if it's less than 75 percent, they can rebuild under the rules they were grandfathered in on. Click here to view a photo gallery of the damage to the building.

"The fact of it is it's non-conforming, which means it doesn't conform to today's regulations. It's protected by the law for at least 12 months and the procedure, if it's destroyed more than 75 percent, I don't have the authority to grant them permission to go back," adds Rutherford.

The move to rebuild has to be made within 12 months of a fire. "There is some rumor in the community that he'll be open for the Bristol races. I technically don't see that happening," says Rutherford.

For now, the county is waiting until they hear from the owner. Until then, Rutherford says nothing will be done.

We have called the owner of The Mouse's Ear about plans for the future, but we're still waiting to hear back.

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