CHICAGO – One nightclub was evacuated early Sunday and another was forced to cancel a show after fire inspectors descended on bars and concert halls across the nation in response to two nightclub tragedies in the span of a week.
In Chicago, where 21 people were trampled at the E2 nightclub Feb. 17, inspectors evacuated the second floor of a club early Sunday after finding overcrowding, blocked exits and other problems.
A rock band competition planned for Salem, Ore., was canceled after an inspection there revealed the venue didn't meet fire and building codes.
And other cities, including Dallas and Kansas City, Mo., put more inspectors on duty and kept them out until the early hours Saturday and Sunday, when clubs are most crowded.
The flurry of inspections closely followed the deaths of 97 people late Thursday in a West Warwick, R.I., nightclub, where a rock band's pyrotechnics ignited the ceiling tiles and quickly engulfed the nightclub and its trapped patrons in flames.
Fire officials across the country said Sunday that they were finding clubgoers almost everywhere were more aware of their surroundings than usual -- and more willing to report problems.
"We've seen a sharp increase in the number of reported overcrowdings," even though most didn't prove to be problems, said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.
More people than usual also called Chicago authorities to complain about clubs there, said Chief Kevin MacGregor, a department spokesman.
It was a complaint that led police to the Rive Gauche nightclub early Sunday.
"We found a number of life safety issues that required closing down the second floor of this club," he said. "We will be writing up violations on the building, and they've got to comply before we let them reopen."
Kansas City's fire department, which typically conducts inspections during the week, sent four teams of investigators to 54 establishments on Friday night and Saturday morning. In Dallas, the city fire department, which now has two full-time nightclub inspectors, pledged to temporarily add a second two-member team to search for safety violations.
Philadelphia Mayor John F. Street announced Sunday that the city's approximately 200 nightclubs would face emergency inspections in the next 60 days. Massachusetts' governor on Friday ordered similar inspections statewide.
In Miami Beach, which has more than 60 clubs, Fire Marshal Ed Del Favro said the city continued an already busy inspection schedule. Fire marshals are in the clubs during peak hours every Friday and Saturday night and make about 3,000 inspections a year, he said.
On Saturday, one Miami Beach club, Ibiza, was cited for having about 230 patrons -- well above its legal limit of 142. Fire marshals ushered patrons outside until the level was back to the limit.
"The club owners welcome us coming into the club," Del Favro said. "If their clubs are safe, it's positive for their industry."