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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

UPDATED: San Antonio Aquarium Set to Reopen After Shoving Match with Leon Valley Fire Department

Posted By on Tue, Dec 4, 2018 at 3:47 PM

  • Google Maps / San Antonio Aquarium
The San Antonio Aquarium is on course to correct the code violations cited by the Leon Valley Fire Department that forced it into an eight-day shutdown.

The privately-owned attraction passed city inspections of upgrades to its electrical system on Tuesday afternoon and will reopen pending further review of the work, General Manager Jenny Spellman said.

(UPDATE: The aquarium did not open Wednesday morning as originally planned, since it's been required to update a blueprint to include newly installed emergency lights. Spellman said she will have a better idea of the opening date once she meets with the aquarium's engineer. More details to come.)

"It would be an inspection that would allow them to reopen," said Michael Naughton, Leon Valley's fire chief. "But there would be additional things they'd need to do in the next week, in the next 30 days."

Leon Valley ordered the aquarium's evacuation on Nov. 28 citing safety hazards during an inspection. The owners, who also operate a similar facility in Austin, immediately began working with fire officials to fix any violations, according to Spellman.

At the same time, though, the aquarium sued Naughton in Bexar County District Court, alleging his department engaged in "continued and systematic" harassment over alleged code violations, including the ones that forced the shutdown.  

Spellman said the aquarium brought the suit to force the department to be clearer about what repairs it required before the facility could reopen. The owners have since dropped the litigation.

"The department were very, very vague about what needed to be fixed," Spellman said. "We were asking for more clarification, because we didn't want this to drag on forever."

The aquarium's primary source of revenue comes from admissions, so the closure was biting into its business, she added. During the winter season, the site may host as many as 5,000 or 6,000 people per weekend day and up to 600 on weekdays.

Naughton, however, denied that the department was unclear about what aquarium needed to do to come back up to code. He added that he's made every attempt to make sure the business disruption is minimal and that animals in the facility are cared for.

"The department has been very clear down to giving them a point-by-point work plan — which we aren't required to do — that spells out the path to reopening," he said. "The fire department has done everything within our power to help these people become successful."

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