In March, Jaime Sullivan moved his retail mattress business into a new space on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill. Just weeks later he is engaged in a clash with Hernando County over the occupancy permit for the space with no end in sight.
“We’ve been trying to get this resolved since March, but it’s gone nowhere,” Sullivan said. “The store has been closed for six weeks with $60,000 to $80,000 retail value in merchandise – we’ve lost thousands being closed.”
At issue is the occupancy of the 6,700 sq. ft. retail space that Sullivan rented at 4207 Mariner Blvd. for the sale of mattresses and related products. Under Florida’s Fire Code, any business of more than 5,000 sq. ft. selling mattresses or upholstered furniture must have a sprinkler system in the space in order to qualify for occupancy.
According to Sullivan, no official at the County level ever told him that such a system was a requirement for occupancy until a building inspector shuttered the shop on April 8.
“The fire inspector didn’t tell me it was required,” Sullivan recalled, “but on April 8 a building inspector came out and shut us down.”
Facing the nearly $60,000 cost of installing a sprinkler system in his space, Sullivan started to do some research of his own. With a little legwork, Sullivan identified eight other businesses in the County that sold mattresses and upholstered furniture – one in Brooksville that is and governed by that city’s occupancy permitting and another that had a firewall.
“I gave the names to the County building inspector, and asked if I could install a firewall between the back (area) and showroom,” Sullivan said. “A firewall would bring (my) cost down from $54,000 to $10,000 and bring the size of my space to below 5,000 sq. ft, but they said no.”
In the meantime, Hernando County Public Information Coordinator Dominique Holmes said that the County had sent Sullivan an email on April 8 denying his request for occupancy of the space.
“I knew right away that they had spelled my name wrong – Jamie instead of Jaime,” he said. “I never got it and I never got it because they sent it to no one.”
Partly through the process, Sullivan said that Dennis O’Keefe had newly assumed oversight of building inspections.
“He’s a very nice guy and I’m sure he’s overwhelmed, but…,” said Sullivan.
Sullivan’s research also revealed that Hernando County could issue the Home of Foam a temporary permit of occupancy until the situation is resolved.
“I requested that about two weeks ago,” he said.
No one from Hernando County was immediately available for comment.
In the meantime, Sullivan awaits a resolution.
“I’m still waiting for the County,” Sullivan said. “I have no idea if I’ll even be able to survive this.”