Update: Helm’s Ale House closed due to problems with neighboring business
by Denise Ellen Rizzo / Tracy Press
Oct 31, 2011 | 10790 views | 86 86 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
City code enforcement closed Helm’s Ale House and Restaurant on Central Avenue Monday evening.  Glenn Moore/Tracy Press
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As a small group of patrons ate inside Helm’s Ale House on Monday night, Oct. 31, a city building and code enforcement official advised the owner that the city had to close his restaurant due to problems with the structure.

According to code enforcement officer Jim Decker, six of the trusses above the former Mexican market that shares a roof with the ale house were in poor repair on the market’s side.

“The damage next door in the vacant space is significant, enough of a safety hazard to both sides of the building,” Decker said Monday night, as he posted closure signs outside the ale house at 1000 Central Ave. “It’s a danger to have people on both sides of the building.”

City officials uncovered the extensive damage during a recent inspection after they gained access to the ceiling, Decker said.

The building’s owner, Denise Hembree, said Thursday, Nov. 3, that the damage in the wooden trusses was found during work on the ceiling.

“We were doing some repairs, and when we took down the drop ceiling, … when we took those down to put in some new lighting, we noticed there was some damage to a truss,” she said. “That was last Friday.”

Decker said the owner of the building, which once served as a single site for Tredways Stationers and is still structurally one building, now has three options: fix it, board it up, or tear it down.

Hembree said she has consulted a structural engineer and expects a report back sometime soon. She guessed that even in a best-case-scenario, it could take four months before the place is repaired.

“It’s going to take several months,” she said. “Winter could slow things down.”

Dave Helm, who opened Helm’s Ale House two years ago, said he was shocked by the closure, but he agreed with the city’s decision Monday to keep people safe.

“I wish they dealt with this when they knew there was a problem,” Helm said. “We don’t have issues on our side. The building and code enforcement said it’s not safe, and I said, all right, we’re done. We’re out of business, and that’s the way it is.”

“It’s not worth someone getting hurt,” added Helm, who had put up homemade signs warning customers of the closure before the city’s official red tag. “We’re done until we can be assured the building is safe.”

Hembree agreed that the damage must be repaired.

“It needs to be addressed,” the property owner said. “There are cracks on both sides.”

Hembree insisted that she didn’t know there were any safety issues with the trusses until the inspection, though there had been a leak in the roof.

“It’s just an old building,” she said.

But even before Monday’s closure, Helm said, he knew about problems with at least the market side of the building for more than a year. He said city officials told the last person who tried to open a business there a year ago that the business couldn’t stay open because of the numerous structural problems in the space.

On a Sunday night six months ago, Helm said, he smelled tar, and when he went upstairs to check it out, he found two men working on the roof using spotlights at about 8 p.m. He said he told them to get off the roof, because he believed they didn’t have the proper permits and might cause more damage. He said the same thing has happened on two occasions.

On Friday, Oct. 28, Helm said, he noticed two city officials inspecting the market and learned that they were doing a safety inspection and had found the damaged trusses. He said he could see from the window Sunday night that someone had propped up pipes to try to hold the roofing aloft, so he confronted city officials Monday. He said it was then he learned there was enough damage to red tag the building.

Hembree said that, after the inspection, she had someone install temporary supports in the interest of safety.

City Councilman Steve Abercrombie said he heard about the closure of Helm’s while working at City Hall on Monday.

“It’s very disappointing,” Abercrombie said. “It’s the kind of business we want in our downtown area. It brings life to the downtown.”

Abercrombie said the city would work with Helm to try to relocate to another site downtown, but he said it wouldn’t be easy to find a place that was restaurant-ready with a kitchen.

News of the closing was a shock to Helm’s loyal customers.

“I’m very upset,” said Sammi Stauch, who was dining in the restaurant when it closed. “This place has a lot of regulars. This is like the Barista’s of the ale places. Like family … everybody knows everybody. This is just so depressing. I was just in here last night, and everybody was happy.”

City Councilman Robert Rickman was also eating in the ale house with his wife, Karen, and their two daughters at the time of the closing.

“We had just finished ordering and we were told we can finish eating, but then we had to leave,” he said. “I’m surprised. We come here often and enjoy it.”

Helm said his restaurant had been becoming quite successful in the past six months, and he would like to keep it somewhere downtown. Ideally, he said, he would like to stay at the Central Avenue location, but he guessed it could be six months before he could reopen the restaurant.

“It’s beyond my control,” he said. “Nothing I can do. We’re in limbo.”

• Editor Jon Mendelson contributed to this report.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 14, 2011
hey cathlab...I hate to be a nitpicker, but if you are going to rather vehemently defend someone...you might want to get their name right.

It's Thiessen...that's how to spell her name. Easy to look up...if you wanted to.

I'm sorry to even step into the fecal mess that this all has become, but whether you hate or love someone...you really should research their name to spell it right...over and over and over again.

Funny how a story about a restaurant, community, small businessman and employees all experiencing a loss has become a tirade against a horse that has already been beaten and buried.

November 14, 2011
I wouldn't have gotten back on that horse if cathlab wouldn't have pulled it back into the arena. I was perfectly comfortable with letting it go.
November 14, 2011

I think you are right that tommybahama only does it as a politico hack. He once said he wanted to move on when the new chief started, but I noticed he didnt really mean anything by that either. He wants nothing more than to make Janet look bad, even if he has to lie to the people on the newspaper website, to accomplish his goal.

I can read him like a book.
November 14, 2011
My my my. Tommybahama must really hate Janet.
November 14, 2011
It certainly sounds that way. Could it be OCD? I hope not an it probably isn't. Politics in Tracy has been that way fer quite awhile now. Watch it really heat up come election time 2012. If it goes accordin ta history it's gonna get a whole lot worse, ya can bet on it.

Funny thang is though, th average citizen seems ta be smart enough ta wade through all th crud an make thair decisions. Still, that democratic process don't set well with others so th game continues.

Just be aware that just cause it's said in th press or in these comment sections don't make it th factual truth. An that goes fer anythang I say in print as well.
November 12, 2011
For all you erstwhile conspiracy theorists out there who see trolls lurking in every governmental shadow, I should note that it was Mr. Helm himself who called the inspector when he questioned the structural integrity of his place of business. Mr. Helm could have ignored it (as many before him had done) and kept his business going for the next few weeks, months or even years at considerable risk to his customers. But, instead, he chose to call the inspector himself and take the risk.

This is not an opinion but a fact: He did the right thing. Finding sinister threads in the warp and woof of this story is baseless and, in fact, disparaging.

I am sorry for your loss, Mr. Helm, but I guarantee I will become a customer of your establishment wherever you decide to relocate. Behavior such as this needs to be reinforced by the Tracy community, not condemned or ostracized.

The only fault I can find in this tragedy is Denise’s incapability or inability to alleviate this issue before the closure became inevitable, or, in fact, before the business license was issued to Mr. Helm prior to opening his ale house.
November 11, 2011
The truth is she was guilty of lying, and she got caught. That's why she made a rapid departure last summer. Besides, it has been repeatedly pointed out the definition of "exonerated", according to the J16 and the TPD General Orders, is that the act happened but has been excused by law or policy.

What that means is it's OK for a police officer to lie to a witness during a criminal investigation, in order to obtain evidence that will be used to gain a conviction. What it doesn't mean is it's OK to lie to the public. Apparently thiessen didn't bother to read J16 or the General Orders or she would have known that.

When she lied to Mr. Helm, it was in front of churchill and councilman Abercrombie. Both knew she had lied and churchill chose to overlook it in order to protect himself, since she was appointed by him. That's why the city manager also had the council approve Chief Hampton's employment, so churchill wouldn't be on the hot seat if something else happened.

The city manager knew what she did was wrong and he didn't do anything to her, which makes him guilty too. So in short, thiessen violated the law and the Law Enforcement Code of Ethics when she lied. That's it.
November 10, 2011
I live smack in the middle of downtown Tracy and just within the past few weeks I have seen:

1) Big 'O' Tires move out of downtown.

2) King's Comics go out of business (we now have no more game stores left in Tracy now)

3) Now Helm's Ale House has 'surprise!' found a rickety roof.

What's next I wonder?

Welcome to the Greater Depression! (2008-2020)
November 10, 2011
Wasn't the air conditioner that broke down when they moved in up on the roof? I don't think this place was ever meant to be.
November 08, 2011
A public records request has been submitted to the city clerk to obtain a copy of the letter from churchill to helm exonerating thiessen for her actions.

Keep in mind the mayor made a public apology to Mr. Miles in October at a council meeting which should prove that thiessen did in fact lie. If you recall she told the mayor and council, at council meetings, that Mr. Miles was wrong. She also wrote numerous letters and other communications stating that Mr. Miles was wrong.

If that's the case then why did the mayor feel the need to publicly apologize to Mr. Miles at a council meeting? That should be proof enough.
November 07, 2011
It is good to know customers safety is a priority.

What about the lighting store thats going click and mortar. There is more parking there.

November 07, 2011
To all of our friends and family at Helm's;

Thank you for all of your love and support. We have been overwhelmed by your friendship and help.

The moment I was advised by the City that our building was unsafe it was shut done. We did not wait for the "official red tag", that came 15 minutes after their inspection.

Businesses have customers, we were fortunate to have friends and extended family. We will miss all of you.

We are currently attempting to relocate somewhere in the downtown. It is our hope that we can do so in the near future.

Thank you all. It was a privilege to be the neighborhood pub.

Dave Helm
November 07, 2011

Were you able to find tommybahama's "proof" and scan the document? If so, could you email it to letsseeiftommybahamaisright@mail.com

I will check back later. I will upload it to the Internet for you and post the location,here, for you to use as a reference in your future comments.

And here's the answer to your question:

If I see it I will believe it.

If not, I will post, here, that no file was received by Friday. Is that enough time?

November 07, 2011

Can you scan the document and attach it to an email? If so, I can put it on a website for you, if pcmiles is unwilling.
November 07, 2011
This is exactly my point. You haven't answered the question that was asked.

If the information can be be cut and pasted are you willing to accept it as factual?

A simple Yes or No answer is enough.

If so great. If not what will it require to satisfy your curiosity?

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