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New boxing gym shut down before it opens in Norwich

By Claire Bessette

Publication: theday.com

Published February 19. 2013 3:15PM   Updated February 19. 2013 11:42PM
City officials say it was in use before permits were issued

Norwich — City building and zoning officials shut down a fledgling boxing gym on Main Street Friday after receiving a complaint that an event occurred there Thursday before the facility received inspections and permits.

City inspectors also said a bathroom, showers, a locker room and electrical work was done inside the former Lawson’s Discount Store at 206-210 Main St. without permits. Some of that construction does not meet building regulations, while other portions must be inspected for compliance, city inspectors said.

The building has a large sign for “John’s Boxing Gym,” erected without a sign permit. The window display shows boxing gloves, shoes and small weights. Pictures of boxers line the doorway. Inside, two boxing rings are visible, draped with signs for “John Gjini Promotions.”

“He’s got some hurdles to clear before we let them in there,” Assistant Building Official Greg Arpin said Tuesday. “We told him he could not occupy it. People took some pictures of the operation there Thursday night. We closed it Friday. We’re trying to work with him.”

Gym owner John Gjini of East Lyme called Thursday’s incident “a misunderstanding.” He said he was just training his 14-year-old son and a few other youths and the gym was not really open. He said he took his son to a gym in New Haven over the weekend to train to avoid additional conflicts with building officials.

City Director of Inspections James Troeger posted bright yellow notices of unsafe conditions on the building Friday. Troeger said Tuesday that the building is not condemned and is not an unsafe structure, but is not approved for occupancy.

In a letter to building owner CDP properties of Waterford, Troeger said a detailed plan of the proposed operation, a floor plan prepared by a licensed design professional and applications for building permits for work must be submitted to the building office.

Gjini met with inspectors Tuesday morning to discuss code work that must be corrected. He said he hopes to correct the work quickly and be able to open by early March.

City officials have been in contact with Gjini for a few months, initiated when he called the zoning office to ask what he needed to open. Jason Vincent, senior economic development associate with the Norwich Community Development Corp., said he went to visit Gjini when he saw the sign on the building. NCDC oversees three downtown economic development incentive programs, and Vincent said he wanted to see if the agency could help the new business owner. But businesses and property owners must have proper permits to qualify for the grant and loan programs.

“Immediately, we found out they did not have permits,” Vincent said.

Troeger said the building code violations can be resolved and are not major, but even before he issues building permits, the city zoning office must issue zoning permits for the facility.

Gjini also owns John’s Boxing Gym in the Bronx, N.Y., a 30-year-old facility he purchased about 10 years ago.

c.bessette@theday.com

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