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Crowded House Closes Show

March 08, 2003|Jia-Rui Chong | Times Staff Writer

A popular Anaheim nightclub was closed early Friday by fire inspectors, who said the crowd gathered to see a ska band far exceeded the building's capacity.

Anaheim Fire Department spokeswoman Maria Sabol said more than 1,000 patrons were inside JC Fandango on State College Boulevard when officials ordered everyone out.

"The posted occupancy load was 429, so this was way over," Sabol said.

The club was cited, and the owners face up to $1,000 in fines and six months in prison.

The club was allowed to reopen Friday, but fire officials will monitor it, Sabol said.

Sabol said the inspection and closure were not part of a stepped-up enforcement effort, though she said public concern about club safety has grown since last month, when 99 people died after a fire at a West Warwick, R.I., nightspot and 21 died in a stampede in a Chicago club.

Javier Castellanos, who owns JC Fandango with other family members, said he did not think the building was overcrowded. "It was safe here [Thursday] night, so it shouldn't be compared to Rhode Island," he said. Castellanos added that the club had received a warning about crowding six years ago.

"When it's standing room only, we're allowed to have about 800 people in here," Castellanos said. He said the 429 figure cited by the Fire Department is for seated capacity; on Thursday night, he said, the club didn't have tables set up.

The club sold about 1,100 tickets for the performance by the band Inspector, but Castellanos did not know how many people were in the building when fire officials ordered it closed. He said he thought patrons had plenty of elbow room.

"I guess we'll have to keep an exact count," Castellanos said. "We have a counter at the door, but we saw it was still comfortable inside."

Neither club managers nor officials at Inspector's record label, Universal Music Latino, expected the eight-member band from Monterey, Mexico, to draw such a crowd.

Castellanos said JC Fandango will give free admission to another Inspector performance today.

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