By CARL SMITH
The owners of Club Rock and BJ3 both say their respective businesses will be open for an inspection by representatives from the state fire marshal’s office this morning.
Oktibbeha County Fire Services Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan told supervisors Monday officials will inspect the two buildings for safety concerns before noon. During a previous board meeting, Rosenhan and Sheriff Dolph Bryan shared concerns over public safety at Club Rock after an incident involving gunfire left the club patrons scrambling for exits and nearly trampling each other.
“It was a miracle no one was killed,” Bryan said early December.
Since the incident, Club Rock owner Larry Fair said he has opened two additional doors for exits, added emergency lighting and constructed an extra parking lot. Fair said he doesn’t want public perception of his club to be set from the events of one night. Recently, Fair sat down with Bryan to discuss the sheriff’s concerns about safety issues at the club.
“I was disappointed about how Dolph came down (to the board), but that’s his opinion. I guess we weren’t communicating,” Fair said. “I didn’t know he felt like he felt, but ... this one incident has (unfairly) put that label on us. I think we struck a chord in our visit.”
Fair spoke to the board Monday and informed supervisors of the changes he has made to the club. He also invited supervisors to join the fire marshals today during their inspection.
“I want everyone safe, and we will abide by whatever codes (the fire marshals) suggest,” Fair said. “The visit could be helpful. These guys have these bylaws, and we will absolutely abide by them.”
BJ3 owner Brad Spencer said he’ll also make his business available for inspection this morning. Spencer, who has experience in fire services, said he believes his facility meets major fire safety standards set by the state.
“I’m familiar with the codes in the city, and I’m very sure the standards will be met. I do the fire drills at county schools and have also helped inspect buildings around the county routinely as a courtesy,” Spencer said. “We’re an open building with tables, chairs and many marked fire exits.”
Both Fair and Spencer said a positive review by the marshals would mean a great deal to their respective businesses.
“This is good for me because I’m looking into community feeding programs through grants,” Spencer said. “If I’m successful in getting a grant, I’d have to meet state code anyway. I’ve done everything I can to cooperate. I want people to come and see the building for themselves.”
District 2 Supervisor Orlando Trainer said Fair’s Monday visit with the supervisors was a sign that shows he is willing to work to ensure safety in his business. Both Club Rock and BJ3 are located in District 2.
“He wants to protect his investment and make everything safe,” Trainer said. “Any business owner addressing these concerns should be receptive to any recommendations they receive.”
After the original board meeting that discussed noise and safety complaints at the two county locations, the board voted to begin the process of developing a local ordinance dealing with safety concerns in public gathering places. Board President Marvell Howard said the supervisors are still in an information-gathering state in regard to the ordinance and a draft has yet to be prepared.
“What this visit by the state fire marshals does is it gives some clarification as to what these facilities need to do in regard to state guidelines they need to follow. It gets everyone on the same page so then there’s no question for anyone in the county operating these types of locations. It will go a long way toward getting some uniformity in the county,” Howard said. “The rules and regulations from the state fire marshals will be key to putting together this document. We haven’t started down that road yet, but it’ll probably be after the new board takes over in January.”