Four city bars were shut down over the weekend for overcrowding, blocked exits or other unsafe conditions.
Another bar, Jet at 700 Gervais St. in the Vista, was put on notice for having a blocked exit and may well be cited, Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins said Sunday.
“Anytime you have a place that’s overcrowded, or with an obstructed exit, somebody could very easily be trapped inside,” Jenkins said.
“We don’t want the worst to happen.”
Jenkins said, “There is absolutely zero tolerance for a blocked exit.”
The Jet and four other bars were visited late Saturday night and on into Sunday morning by Jenkins and acting Columbia police chief Merlon Kelly. They were escorted by several police officers.
Other bars were:
Jenkins said the owners of the bars will be asked to meet with officials from the Fire Marshal’s office on Monday.
The amount of fine expected to be levied on the clubs will be determined in part by whether the clubs have been cited before for the same offense, he said. Fines will likely vary between some $300 and $1,000, he said.
“More than likely, all of them will be cited,” Jenkins said.
“With a locked or blocked exit, it is impossible to get out,” Jenkins said.
“With overcrowding, you have so many people trying to get out that it could block an exit when they clog it up.”
Jenkins mentioned a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island, when 100 people were killed as they blocked exits in their wild stampede to escape deadly fire and smoke inside. Overcrowding was a key cause in the high toll, he said.