ONLY ON ABC-7: More shipping container structures being built in El Paso

More shipping container structures being built in El Paso

EL PASO, Texas - It's a trend that's been popping up throughout the city.

Shipping containers are being used as building or additions to buildings.

ABC-7 asked city officials about code compliance and where the line is drawn between being trendy or trashy.

On El Paso's west side off of Mesa Street they're stacked and painted. In downtown they make a spot for a sip of coffee. On the east side they provide a home for wings -- tattoo shops and cigars.

"We have been seeing a number of these shipping containers being utilized to have smaller commercial businesses," said Larry Nichols.

Nichols is the director of the planning and inspections department.

He tells ABC-7 businesses using shipping containers can't just decide to put them on the property.

"It requires permitting for the location on the building site. It requires permitting for the mechanical, electrical and plumbing elements that would be put in there," Nichols said.

And what about shipping containers that are stacked in a unusual fashion? A place on the east side even has one upright towering over customers. That also gets checked.

"That would require welding and calculation from an engineer," Nichols added.

"They go through how good your welds are and how it's supported ... it's almost like an extra building,"  Steve Ornelas said.

Ornelas is part owner of One Stop Kitchen and Bar in El Paso's lower valley.

Not only does the place provide a cold beverage but offers a multilevel experience with a large patio that includes in container seating, ping pong and some foosball.

"Just by having containers outside, people see it and they're like, ah man. I guess it's trending," Ornelas said.

But opinions can differ, ABC-7 was sent a picture of The Buzz off of Montana Avenue. The sender said it's an eye sore.

"When you showed me the picture I realized it was not a compliant structure," Nichols said.

Nichols made calls and found out the establishment attempted to open without a building permit and did not have permits for the use of shipping containers.

"It has been closed down. There's a posting of do not occupy and citations are going to be issued," Nichols added.

ABC-7 video shows the place is still open.

The owner tells ABC-7 the business never closed, only the shipping container area was. But she does admit she did not have a permit for the shipping containers and she is working with the city to correct that situation.

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