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No, this topic doesnt refer to a club that closes in three weeks, or immediately fills with guidage! There have been two major nightclub disasters in four days, including last night's horrific Rhode Island pyrotechnic disaster. Both resulted in massive loss of life, and the two combined will spell a new era of enforcement probably not seen since the Happyland debacle.

I don't think any club lifer could watch the footage of last night's instant carnage without feeling that it could have been them. Here was a club that had four fire exits, had passed all inspections, and probably was in its own way a gathering place for a community, or several communities, not unlike the clubs we have worked in, or owned.

I kept remembering all of the arguments that we had during MOTHER, where we had banned all fire performances onstage, for a number of reasons including the sprinkler pipe that ran the length of the stage, which could be triggered by even heavy smoke. A month didn't go by where some performer or producer, very well intentioned, had argued "But everyone lets me do this performance but you!" like it was some personal fetish of ours rather than a regard for the safety of the patrons as well as the club.

My gut feeling is that the band never mentioned the extent of those pyro effects, which were obviously meant for a much larger venue, because I've seen so many instances (especially at certain gothic/industrial parties that shall remain nameless, because they are not going on now) where performances almost burned down venues that I was in, and sometimes even performing in. The worst of these was at The Bank, where the evening's promotor had booked a grinder act with heavy PT without even having a stage manager! (And if you were there you will remember it too, absolutely terrifying.)

There are fire performers and producers that use PT in the most safe and careful way, that always have their own fire marshalls and safe areas for prep and extinguishers, etc. Certainly Arena/Blaze, Bindlestiffs and many others come to mind. This rant is not directed at them in any way. However, the selfishness of many performers and ensembles who put their own "art" before the safety, or even lives of their audience, is an issue that has run ramapnt for a long time. Though the motive is more lofty, it can be as damaging as the pure greed that led the Chicago clubowner to padlock a back exit door rather than pay someone a decent wage (100 dollars?) to stand at it all night..
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Interesting. The loss of life in both instances was TERRIBLE. We watched the Long Island nightclub fire story on the TV outside last night at Webster Hall when the news was on. Here in NYC I remember the Happyland incident of years ago too, and how that marked the beginning of the "crackdown" era in some respects. And the Chicago matter -- the idea of actually being trampled to death is really horrifying. An additional sad result of these tragedies (albeit less important than the loss of life) will probably be yet another excuse for club crackdowns, as if there aren't enough already. You'll see the usual public outrage from neighbors and community activists, lawsuits, etc. That will trickle to NYC naturally. Between smoking bans, drug raids, meddling community boards, draconian cabaret laws, etc how will nightlife cope?
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The Granddaddy of all horrible club fires occurred in Boston at the Coconut Grove in 1942, killing 492 people. The fire was started by someone simply lighting a match in order to screw in a lightbulb. Most of the victims died from smoke inhalation, though locked exits were a factor. If such a tragedy can be caused by a match, how could anyone even dream of pyrotechnics? I have always been opposed to them, and still am to this day. Though fire-eating can be safer and more easily contained, it still makes me nervous.
In addition, the reason the fire spread so rapidly at the Coconut Grove is because much of the decor was not fireproof, which is why club promoters should definitely think twice about hanging flammable fabrics, plastics and reams of paper. Even if something doesn't seem like it would burn, it can set off clouds of toxic smoke, making escape impossible.

"According to Newsweek (12/7/42), the fire began shortly after 10pm. Panic set in as a girl, her hair ablaze, ran from the Melody Lounge in the basement where the fire had begun, screaming 'Fire!' Flames flashed with incredible swiftness through the imitation palm trees and flimsy decorations. Smoke swirled in choking masses through hallways. Blazing draperies fell, setting clothes and hair on fire. Patrons were huddled under tables and trampled to death. Others tripped and blocked the six foot wide stairway up from the lounge. An estimated 800-1,000 people were thrown into pure bedlam attempting to get out of the flaming, choking inferno.

Flames moved upstairs to the main bar and dining room within 5 minutes. At the Nov. 30 inquest, Deputy Fire Chief John McDonough testified a side door was equipped with a panic lock which would open under pressure, but it was out of order and the door was secured by another lock. This left only the main revolving door as an escape route. This door quickly became jammed. Nearly 200 people died in heaps behind this revolving door. Fire Commissioner William Reilly later said the leather covered walls of the club had been treated with a fire resistant compound which kept them from bursting into flame but caused them to give off dense clouds of thick choking smoke. City building commissioner James Mooney said the dead and injured were piled in heaps. To him it was evident a terrific fight had taken place in the panicking darkness, "Many of the bodies were actually torn apart."

The recent tragedy saddens me. It shouldn't have happened.
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From Yahoo News


The owner of a well-known New Jersey nightclub said Great White failed to tell him they were using pyrotechnics for a concert there a week ago.

"Our stage manager didn't even know it until it was done," said Domenic Santana, owner of the Stone Pony in Asbury Park. "My sound man freaked out because of the heat and everything, and they jeopardized the health and the safety of our patrons."
I've heard that the owners of the RI club may be charged with murder or manslaughter along with a host of other charges. I feel almost as bad for them as I do for the fire victims and their families. Their business and careers are ruined, and they have to live with the deaths of 96 people in their hearts for the rest of their lives. If it's true the band was using fire without permission, clearly THEY bear the responsibility and should face the consequences. I'm not saying the owners are necessarily blameless, but I'm so tired of nightclub owners being crucified and blamed for everything.

Last night a large group of inspectors from the NYPD and FDNY showed up at Webster and shut us down twice for 1/2 hour each time while they ran flashlights all over the place and made notes. Things will be tense for a while.
are you serious Lex?
I was gonna be @ Webster this Saturday but I couldn't go. I hope they dont come next week.
You mean they had to escort people or something?
You know....actually the club security level has gone down...I have some stories that I, unfortunately, can not share here with everyone.
I mean, on one hand it is good to have a club check-up, on the other-it is so annoying!!! Just because something happened at some other club, now they will inspect everything.
Is it just me or has anyone else noticed a sudden "fire" accidents all over NY? hmmmm...very you think it's all coinsidental?
No, Bridgette they didn't close the whole club. People who were already inside were allowed to stay, and the music and dancing and everything else continued as normal. Customers were not disturbed. But the FDNY-NYPD inspectors made us shut down the front door so no one else could come in. Top management was walking around all nervous, etc. At the end of it they found a few minor violations, but everything was pretty much okay.
The band Great White's performance rider contains no mention whatsoever of pyrotechnics being used during the rock group's current tour of clubs and small theaters, The Smoking Gun has learned. TSG today (2/21) obtained copies of the band's rider from two separate promoters who booked shows by the group during the past month. A copy of the Great White performance specs can be found below. A third promoter, Domenic Santana, told TSG that the band set off a pyrotechnic display without his permission during a show in Asbury Park, New Jersey last Friday (2/14), putting the "lives of a lot of people in danger." Santana, owner of the Stone Pony, said that he "had no idea" that pyrotechnics were part of the rock band's show and pointed to Great White's standard performance rider, which makes no reference to pyrotechnic displays. Last night, at least 95 concertgoers were killed and 170 people were hurt at a West Warwick, Rhode Island show when the club erupted in flames following a pyrotechnic display during the group's opening song. Owners of The Station, the Rhode Island club where scores perished, this afternoon released a statement claiming that they, too, were never told about Great White's pyrotechnic plans. (9 pages)
It saddens me that so many people suffered in this R.I. tragedy. I'm with you, Lex, in that I feel for the club owners and what they're having to go through as well. The Station is a reputable place, those guys are really nice to work with. Bottom line, however, is they are responsible for the safety of their customers.

I'm glad Darla posted the performance rider. The band and, more pointedly, their agents and managers should also be held accountable, and named in any court proceedings. That's just irresponsible, careless, and greedy. They likely omitted the PT (or lazily didn't update the rider), because they knew it would limit the number of bookings. I'm surprised Stone Pony didn't notify other venues on Great White's tour schedule.
I found this tidbit, from interesting, and not reported anywhere else -

The Derderians were in the process of selling the nightclub when the fire broke out; just hours before, two men, Michael O'Connor and Daniel Gormley, filed papers with the state forming a company to run it. According to the town clerk, the Derderians were scheduled to come in the following day to begin transferring the liquor license.

The Station was also caught up in the contentious divorce of Michael Derderian, whose finances were becoming increasingly precarious, according to court records. Divorce records show Heather Derderian tried to force her husband to sell the club last year; the records also show his mounting debts, including $28,000 owed to the Internal Revenue Service.

Jeffrey Pine, an attorney for Jeffrey Derderian, said there was no indication the brothers' finances were a focus of the criminal investigation. Michael Derderian's divorce became final Wednesday.

Also read that each burn pateint's hospital bill will be in the $400,000-500,000 range. So the $500 saved on the insulation yielded a $20 million hospital bill, among other heartache and tragic losses not even measurable, a huge hit to the club industry worldwide, and so much more.
I Thank you immensely for posting and taking this stance and it's one of the many reasons you're held in such high esteem by most everyone. I stopped following some of my most favorite performers and band acts for the same reckless disregard they employed with flammable theatrics on small stages. Not only would they fail to bring along a simple kitchen CO-2 extinguisher or set aside a bucket of sand or water, they invariably didn't even know where the house extinguishers. When I found myself having to locate and make it easily accessible to the performance area to relieve my own anxiety, I realized I could be thwarting other personnel should a fire break out somewhere else in the space. But here's something else that I think is going unsaid in this discussion. When I asked about the permission policy I was told in different places on different occasions that it was a matter of don't ask, don't tell. In other words, it was an unspoken code that as long as you didn't ask permission you weren't denied permission as long as you weren't bringing in industrial flame throwers. For insurace reasons/costs, Club owners/ Promoters couldn't give you permission so you didn't ask. But for them to lead us to believe they were totally unaware this was or would be taking place in their space is a bit specious in the least especially since many of the acts returned with the very same show in the rotation schedule, bigger and brighter than before. This is not to say all club owners/ Promoters operated this way but I think more than a few did and by presenting themselves as oblivious and thereby shifting the blame all on the performers perpetuates the problem. Your only other option was to go through the headache of getting Fire dept. forms, permission and added liability insurance. Now how many fire breathing acts would bother with that but you'd think they'd have some sort of obvious safety backup at the ready? I can count on one finger how often I encountered that. Then when I heard friends were practicing fire twirling on their tar based roof tops in Williamsburg I thought everyone had gone nuts and gave up that scene altogether.


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