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Napa quake highlights benefits of retrofitting

  • Joggers run Saturday along Main Street between Second and Third streets in Napa. The former Fagiani's bar at 812 Main St. and the building housing Velo Pizzeria to its left have been retrofitted and escaped significant damage. The pizzeria, however, is closed because officials believe unretrofitted buildings on Brown Street pose a threat. (Conner Jay/Press Democrat)

Brad Farmerie expected the worst when he pulled up to The Thomas Restaurant in downtown Napa following last Sunday’s powerful earthquake.

“It’s bad,” read the text message Farmerie received from one of his employees, as the executive chef was busy assessing damage to his own home.

Farmerie found the three-story restaurant he leads at 813 Main St. in a shambles. Dozens of shattered wine and liquor bottles littered the floor and water spewed from broken pipes. The elevator was stuck, trapping a janitor who had to be freed by firefighters.

Stone chunks the size of watermelons had rained down from the building behind the restaurant and tumbled down a stairway into the basement.

“I thought we wouldn’t open for a long time,” Farmerie recalled last week.

But in fact, the first-floor bar reopened that night, and by Monday evening, full food and beverage service had been restored. The disaster that Farmerie feared instead turned out to be a relatively minor setback, most likely because of seismic upgrades on the century-old building.

The Thomas and the square block of mostly historic buildings on which it is situated illuminates a stark portrait of the benefits of bringing buildings up to current seismic standards, as well as the potential downside of not doing so. In contrast, three buildings on Brown Street behind the Thomas have been red-tagged, meaning they are now too dangerous to enter. City officials said they were among the last buildings in Napa awaiting seismic upgrades.

City officials consider the buildings such a threat that they banned entry to several surrounding buildings, including one where Rick Molinari operates a cafe.

He was in the process of opening the cafe, called Molinari’s, on Monday when an inspector shut the building, even though it suffered no apparent damage after recently undergoing a seismic retrofit.

“I’m frustrated because the owner on the other side of me didn’t do his job,” Molinari said.

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