Ryan Chartrand

After 23 years of conducting business in downtown San Luis Obispo, the owners of Costume Capers have been given until April 11 to move out of their Chorro Street location due to the safety hazards associated with unreinforced masonry buildings.

The termination of their lease comes hot on the heels of a court ruling from earlier this month that awarded $2 million to the families of two women killed in a building collapse during the 2003 San Simeon earthquake. A jury found 84-year-old Mary Mastagni, owner of the historic Acorn Building in Paso Robles, guilty of negligence for not reinforcing the 111-year-old structure.

The ruling opens owners of unreinforced masonry buildings up to potential lawsuits from anyone injured on their property during a natural disaster.

“Now you can sue Mother Nature, I guess,” said Keith Wetzel, co-owner of Costume Capers.

According to Wetzel, the future of the store is uncertain, but he can understand the need to evacuate the Blackstone Building.

“The upstairs has been condemned for at least 30 years,” he said. “Physically, to have it retrofitted is beyond what anybody can do.”

Wetzel has been staking out new locations for the shop but cannot say whether or not it will be reopening until he can reach his business partner, who was vacationing out of the country when the decision was handed down.

Finding a space of equal or greater size in the downtown area within the same budget has proved difficult. This has led Wetzel to believe that Costume Capers may relocate to one of the more industrial parts of town, which, as it turns out, wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

“We’re more of a destination store,” he said. Also, relocating to a large warehouse space would solve many of the store’s current problems with storage and long lines during the holidays, he said. The diminutive size of the current location leads to a 45-minute wait just to get inside around Halloween.

“Hopefully it will be a positive thing for everybody,” Wetzel said.

As for the Blackstone Building, its fate is as uncertain as that of Costume Capers. The staggering amount of renovation necessary to make it safe makes demolition an appealing choice for its owners. Wetzel said its bricks are so waterlogged that one could easily drive nails through them

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