March 26, By Christian Murray
He’s on the top of the world.
The owner of the Cliffs at LIC, a gigantic indoor rock-climbing center located on 44th Drive, reopened today after being shut down by the Building Dept. in October for not having a valid Certificate of Occupancy.
“I feel the world has come off my shoulders,” said Mike Wolfert, the owner of the Cliffs. “They put us through an intensive audit.”
The Cliffs had its grand opening last October, but was shut down just three weeks later. Therefore, Wolfert said, when he reopened today it felt like a grand opening once again– especially after the climbers began to scale the walls.
The Cliffs, located at 11-11 44th Drive, features more than 30,000 square feet of climbing space—including walls that tower up to 60-feet high. The center also has a gym, which is fully equipped with strength-training equipment and cardiovascular machines.
Wolfert said he will start offering fitness and climbing programs in about two weeks—such as after-school programs, fitness camps and climbing classes.
He is also about to launch an after-school program for at-risk youth called “Climb Up.” The program will be free of charge to those children who qualify.
Wolfert said that he is planning on holding a re-opening celebration in about two weeks, although it won’t be quite as lavish as his grand opening when 1,000 people attended.
However, the past year has certainly been no party for Wolfert.
He had planned to open in May but complications with the building department—including his arrest for allegedly bribing a building inspector– delayed the opening.
However, when he did open in October an anonymous complaint was filed that alleged the Cliffs had violated city zoning laws. While that complaint was unfounded and dismissed, it led to a building inspector coming to the facility and reporting that he did not have a valid Certificate of Occupancy.
All of the delays—from May through March—have cost Wolfert about $500,000, he said.
Wolfert said he was able to retain his full time employees during the period—despite the loss in revenue. However, the delays did lead to some members canceling– even though they were not charged for the months the facility was closed. However, he said that was a small minority.
“It was pretty amazing the support I got from the climbing community,” he said. “They really reached out to me.”