Concerns over club crowding in Greensboro prompting action

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The City of Greensboro is one step away from having the power to close down clubs that it says repeatedly defy capacity limitations.

The ordinance that city council will vote on next week includes provisions that would allow the city to close a business for up to 10 days if it allows in double the number of people authorized to be inside.

If a business allows in 25 percent above full capacity twice in the same year or more than 10 percent above capacity three times over the course of 12 months the shutdown would also be triggered.

“This is a safety measure because it is dangerous when you have clubs thumbing their nose at the city fire code regulations and allowing unsafe situations to continue to develop,” said Tom Carruthers, interim city attorney for the City of Greensboro.

Carruthers said the ordinance was prompted by business owners who have been caught repeatedly going over capacity and racking up fines.

Leaders for Visions Entertainment Complex said they’ve received three ordinance violation tickets this year totaling close to $300,000.

Manager Jennifer Pina said the group hasn’t paid the fines because it disputes the head count on the capacity violation. The business is assessed a $100 fine for each person counted over capacity. Firefighters counted 1,800 people inside the club one night this past spring, club leaders argue it was closer to 1,000 people.

The club also argues that the City of Greensboro never sent anyone to the club to the check the capacity limit following its expansion. The 800 person capacity was determined before a change in management and changes to the floor plan.

“I feel like we should have an opinion and a say in how many people we get in and how many people we get out,” said Pina.

Carruthers said any appeal to expand a business’ capacity needs to be made to the state.

“If they disagree they need to go to Raleigh and ask the commission to change it,” said Carruthers.

The club says it’s planning a civil lawsuit over the head count issue. The city is planning its own lawsuit to recoup the money owed in fines.

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