Calumet Inn owners sue city

Tammy Grubbs, Vanda Smrkovski, Heliocentrix LLC and reVamped LLC are suing the city of Pipestone and Building and Zoning Official Doug Fortune for allegedly violating their constitutional rights by condemning the Calumet Inn in 2020.

According to a complaint filed Nov. 10 in U.S. District Court, Grubbs and Smrkovski allege that the city and Fortune violated their due process rights under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and violated 5th Amendment rights by preventing them from using or occupying the Calumet Inn. Grubbs and Smrkovski are seeking monetary damages in excess of $75,000, attorney’s fees, litigation expenses and other relief and costs deemed appropriate by the court.

ReVamped, which is owned by Grubbs, entered into a contract for deed to buy the Calumet Inn from Heliocentrix, which is owned by Smrkovski, on Aug. 21, 2018, but Heliocentrix remains the sole owner of the property, according to the complaint.

The city of Pipestone condemned the Calumet Inn on March 10, 2020, indicating that the State Fire Marshal determined that it was a fire hazard, and ordered it to be closed until necessary repairs were made. Grubbs received a hand delivered notice from the city that morning indicating that all occupants had to vacate the building by 5 p.m.

The letter referenced a State Fire Marshal inspection on Nov. 13, 2019 that revealed nine alleged violations of the state’s fire code that had to be remedied or repaired by Feb. 13. A followup inspection was done on March 9, 2020 because the State Fire Marshal had not received confirmation that the violations had been corrected. The followup inspection revealed additional alleged fire code violations and indicated deadlines by which to address the violations, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges that the fire marshal did not provide the fire inspection report containing the alleged violations found during the first inspection to Grubbs or Smrkovski, or an authorized agent of reVamped or Heliocentrix. It alleges that Grubbs first saw a copy of the fire inspection report on March 6, 2020 and provided a copy to Smrkovski. The complaint contends that the fire inspection report did not indicate that the Calumet Inn was a fire hazard.

The complaint contends that condemning the Calumet Inn was beyond Fortune’s legal power or authority because it was not unfit for occupancy. It also alleges that the condemnation notice did not include a correction order allowing a reasonable time to make the repairs and improvements required to bring the structure into compliance or notify the property owners of the right to appeal.

The complaint contends that city did not adhere to state statute that requires a court proceeding to enforce a condemnation order and allows the person to whom the order is served 20 days to provide an answer. It alleges that Grubbs and Smrkovski notified the city that they wanted to appeal the condemnation and were denied that opportunity.

According to the complaint, Smrkovski and Grubbs filed an appeal with the State Appeals Board of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry on April 28, 2020 and served it to Fortune. On April 30, 2020, the city removed signs indicating that the Calumet Inn was closed due to it being condemned after Grubbs obtained building permits to “address the most pressing issues,” according to a May 1, 2020 press release from City Administrator Jeff Jones.

The complaint contends that the condemnation of the property resulted in the loss of the Calumet Inn’s food license, liquor license and hotel license, and cut off the business’s revenue stream, leaving it unable to pay ordinary operating expenses and make repairs, and making it unable to reopen until Nov. 6, 2020.

On May, 6, 2022, Grubbs announced that the business would be closing temporarily due to financial burdens and the business has not reopened since then.

Jones said Wednesday, Nov. 16 that the city’s legal counsel was reviewing the complaint.