The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire happened on this day back in 1977. My parents used to visit this establishment on special occasions and were supposed to be there just a few days before the fire. The posh supper club was located in Southgate, Kentucky just 2 miles south of downtown Cincinnati. My parents used to frequent this establishment back in the day and had visited just a few days before the fire.
The Beverly Hills, was known for live entertainment in an elegant atmosphere. It drew the biggest names in show biz- entertainers hailed from Las Vegas, Hollywood and New York, among other places. The site was an upscale venue that attracted both top-notch talent and clientele. It was a place to be seen. The fatal fire happened on the night of May 28, 1977 during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. It was a packed house that night and the performance was sold out. People had arrived in droves to see John Davidson perform live.
At the time this was the third deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history and it smouldered for a full two days. A total of 165 people died and more than 200 were injured. It was the deadliest fire in the United States since 1944, when 168 people were killed in the Hartford Circus fire in Hartford Connecticut. After the horrific event fire investigators determined a myriad of issues that contributed to the high death toll:
CROWDING- 925 people packed into the room where Davidson was to perform, this room had a maximum occupancy 756 people.
INADEQUATE FIRE EXITS- Maximum occupancy of the entire establishment was 2,750, which require 27.5 exits based on Kentucky law however, this club had fewer than 17 exits, many of which were not clearly marked nor easily reached. As a matter of fact, some of the 17 exits required going through doors or corridors typically used by employees.
FAULTY WIRING- A report by then Governor Julian Carroll called the club’s wiring an “electrician’s nightmare”, and alleged multiple, wide-ranging code violations.
A COMPLETE LACK OF FIREWALLS- This oversight allowed the fire to spread much more rapidly than expected.
EXTREME SAFETY CODE VIOLATIONS- The building did not have a fire alarm or a sprinkler system.
POOR CONSTRUCTION PRACTICES- Not only had the club been built in a piecemeal fashion, it was also without adequate roof support and constructed with highly flammable components.
I’ve linked an article detailing the fire that also contains an interview with Nick Clooney as well as a video from YouTube that has vintage footage.