Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Madison fire standards inspected, reviewed after other U.S. club fires

Recent fires in nightclubs around the country have caused heightened awareness of safety issues in Madison’s own venues.

Fire Marshal Ed Ruckriegel said every venue must comply with state and city requirements before opening. Due to new fire policies adopted in July 2002, many of the cities venues will need to reevaluate their space. One of the new regulations requires each site to have a fire-safety and evacuation plan.

“We haven’t really been enforcing the new plans yet. We have just been going around and educating owners, telling them they will need to have plans turned in the next few months,” Ruckriegel said.


The pyrotechnics, or indoor fireworks, that caused fires in Rhode Island, Chicago and Minneapolis clubs are only allowed with a permit in Madison clubs, Ruckriegel said.

“We’ve never issued them for a small club, but we probably issue between eight and twenty for the Civic Center and the Kohl Center each year,” Ruckrigel said.

Some venues, such as Luther’s Blues, won’t allow pyrotechnics based on their own policies.

“It’s more of a house policy, it’s not in the contracts. But due to recent events we’ve decided to add it to our contracts that pyrotechnics aren’t allow,” said Luther’s general manager Ben Schubring. “It’s also posted in the band dressing rooms and the stage area.”

Schubring said the establishment will probably never allow fireworks, although Luther’s is a large enough venue to feature pyrotechnics.

Schubring said he wanted to express the site is very safe and secure. There are two exit stairwells and a sprinkler system, he said. Schubring also credited the building to being very state of the art, and the employees prepared to deal with the safety of the patrons.

“We are currently working with the fire department to train the staff so they can help and guide people in case of an emergency,” Schubring said.

Despite precautions taken by clubs in their policies and structure, live stage performers can always pose a volatile force.

Bill Grogan, an Arlington resident who attended the Seattle-based Jet City Fix’s show at Luther’s Feb. 16, said he saw the band fired off a single pyrotechnic despite the insistence of Luther’s management fireworks be omitted from the show.

“Halfway through the first number the lead singer made some sort of gesture and a firework went off,” Grogan said. Grogan said he specifically remembered pointing out to his wife embers from the firework lingering near the clubs ceiling.

Luther’s management had argued heatedly over the club’s policy of no fireworks, according to a report in the Capital Times.

The newly opened Club Majestic has also gone to great lengths to ensure its patrons safety.

“We had to redesign lots of things to add fire retardant materials,” said bar manager Gregory Hines. “We worked with the fire department to have lots of materials approved.”

According to Hines, the original plans called for a lot of wood to match the older style of the building, but the final plans included lots of steel and concrete. Now, Hines said, there are lots of layers between old and new, with many different fireproof materials. Hines also said the club has two new exits, a fire stairwell and a new, incredibly sensitive fire detection system.

“It is a particle eye, it actually notices when the weight of the particles in the air change weight,” Hines said.

The club is also designed to have an area capacity, not a building capacity, Hines said. All over the space there are maps of the venue with the exits marked and the capacity for the specific area listed he said.

Currently Club Majestic doesn’t have any live performances planned, but they are considering it in the future, Hines said.

“I can’t see any band playing here using pyrotechnics,” Hines said. “It just doesn’t really fit the atmosphere of the place.”

Although no pyrotechnics are planned, the club still has safety in mind for its DJs, said Hines.

“Even the base of the DJ booth has fire proof material in it,” Hines said.

Hines said recent club disasters didn’t hurt first weekend business at Club Majestic.

“We turned away 290 people this weekend. On Friday night there were still 100 people waiting in line at 1 a.m. when we told them we would be calling last call soon, and another 190 people on Saturday night,” Hines said.

Early last call and a systematic way of opening and closing the club are two more things that Hines credits with keeping the venue safe.

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