Officials in Boston, where many of the hundreds of victims of last
month’s deadly nightclub fire in Rhode Island were treated, are
leading the national legislative response to the recent nightclub
Yesterday, members of the Boston City Council’s committee on
public safety convened a fact-finding hearing to discuss lowering
capacities in nightclubs by more than a third, stepping up
inspection and enforcement of the city’s fire code and requiring
more smoke detectors and sprinklers, even on buildings that
pre-date the existing code.
That hearing followed Mayor Thomas Menino’s banning of
pyrotechnic displays in all Boston’s 200-plus nightclubs last week.
Mayor Menino also announced the formation of a task force on
nightclub safety made up of officials from the city’s licensing and
inspections divisions, emergency services and club owners.
That last group was among the opposition at yesterday’s council
hearing. City codes now allow one person per three feet of space;
the city council has suggested raising that number to five square
feet of space for every occupant, which would shrink many
capacities by hundreds of people and severely cut into the
industry’s revenue. Councilors expect to introduce the legislation
“As far as fire codes go, Boston has one of the safest,
particularly in respect to the Cocoanut Grove fire,” says Councilor
Stephen Murphy, referring to the deadliest nightclub blaze in
history. The 1942 fire killed 492 in Boston and led to many changes
in the universal fire code such as flanking exits for revolving
doors, occupant capacity placards, exit lights. “Still,” Murphy
says, “there’s room for improvement.” He cites a need to boost the
number of inspectors on the job at any given time and stiffen the
penalty for violations.
Larger venues, like the city’s Fleet Center, would not
necessarily be subject to the same restrictions. Operators of such
places in Boston can still apply for a permit to feature indoor
Ninety-nine people were killed and hundreds more injured at West
Warwick’s the Station last month, after pyrotechnics used by the
band Great White ignited soundproofing around the stage and razed
the wooden nightclub. And less than a week earlier, twenty-one died
in a stampede in a Chicago club.