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Fire, safety violations prompt criminal charges

By Edwin Folven, 2/07/2013

Owners of club, property cited for overcrowding

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The Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office has filed charges against the owners of the Hollywood Supper Club, alleging that the club has repeatedly been in violation of safety and fire codes.

The club, which is located in the former Vogue Theatre at 6675 Hollywood Blvd., was allegedly cited last June by Los Angeles Fire Department inspectors for overcrowding, blocked exits and the use of illegal fireworks, and again in November for similar violations. The City Attorney’s Office filed 17 misdemeanor counts on Feb. 1 against Abdi Manavi, 41, the vice president of Supperclub Los Angeles, the corporation that owns the and operates the Hollywood Supper Club, and Michael Duddie, 37, the nightclub’s general manager. Similar charges were filed against Demetri Samaha, Rose Samaha, and Caroline Braidi, 53, officers for the limited liability corporations that own the building housing the Hollywood Supper Club. They are scheduled to be arraigned on March 15 in the Los Angeles Central Arraignment Court.

The charges include one count of conspiracy, two counts of allowing an excessive occupancy load, one count of illegal discharge of fireworks, failure to secure a building permit, and multiple fire, safety and zoning code violations. If convicted, the defendants could face one year in jail and a $10,000 fine for the conspiracy charge, and six months in jail and a $1,000 fine for each of the additional counts.

The charges stem from an incident last June 17 when LAFD inspectors shut the club down after allegedly counting 1,074 patrons inside the building, which has a maximum occupancy of 556. Inspectors also found illegal fireworks were being used, and bedding was being used as seating. Additionally, there was allegedly a trapeze artist swinging from the ceiling above the crowd —which is a safety violation according the LAFD — and that there were several blocked exits and propped open fire doors, which are kept closed to keep fires from quickly spreading.

During another inspection last July by the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety, inspectors allegedly found an illegal tent behind the building with illegal wiring, and a blocked exit. When LAFD inspectors returned on Nov. 1, they again found the club was overcrowded, had blocked exits and fire doors, and were allowing seating on bedding inside the club. They also allegedly found illegal fireworks, and shut the club down for the night.

Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, said the situation is a clear danger to public safety.

“Based on the reports we received from the fire department, there were some very serious safety violations occurring,” Mateljan said. “When you have twice the legal capacity of people, and people swinging from the ceiling, it is a recipe for disaster.”

The Hollywood Supper Club remains open while the charges are pending, and operates on Tuesdays, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays. The owners of the club were unavailable for comment, but have issued a statement.

“Supperclub Los Angeles institutes safe business practices and has been welcoming happy, satisfied dinner and nightclub guests each week since 2010. Supperclub has never had an incident of a fire tragedy at our venue. We take the safety of our Supperclub family and extended family of guests very seriously. All our curtains and soundproof material are class 1/A fire retardant. Building a brand new venue in Hollywood, our sprinkler and fire extinguishing systems are up to code with the Los Angeles Fire Department and gets routine check ups by the service provider. Supperclub outsources a top security company that stations personnel at all fire exits and employs an EMT representative every night we are open to quickly respond to any emergency,” according to the statement.

A spokesman for the club who declined to give permission to use his name said the safety concerns were being addressed and he believed the charges would be amended. Additionally, the statement indicated that Demitri Samaha is one of Supperclub Los Angeles’s contractors who built the venue, and Rose Samaha, Demitri Samaha’s 85-year old year mother, and Caroline Braidi, are not related to Supperclub’s management team.

Mateljan said the charges were amended to include more people — Manavi and Duddie — and that the City Attorney’s Office has not been notified that any changes had been made.

LAFD Inspector Manny Hernandez, who inspects clubs in the Hollywood area, said he could not comment on the situation at the supper club because of the pending charges. He said in general, however, that the clubs in Hollywood follow fire safety regulations. He said he writes an average of 10 to 20 citations for violations each year.

“Depending on the circumstance, it could range from fines to criminal counts,” Hernandez said. “Violations are fairly uncommon. The last thing these clubs want to happen is to be shut down.”

Hernandez said the recent deadly nightclub fire in Santa Maria, Brazil — in which more than 230 people died when fireworks allegedly sparked a blaze and people were trapped because of a lack of open or unlocked exits — has generated new concerns about fire safety. The inspector said nightclubs in Los Angeles need a special permit to use fireworks or pyrotechnic devices, and that a fire safety officer from the department is required to be present when they are used. The LAFD charges a minimum of $265 for the service, Hernandez said.

Nightclubs are also required to keep exits unblocked, and proper signage is required. He cautioned clubgoers to always identify an exit other than the one they entered through as an escape route.

“If I were to go to any club right now, there would be something in the way [of one of the exits], but we work with them, and I haven’t met any club manager who has been uncooperative,” Hernandez said. “We are required by law to do inspections at every club at least once a year, and then we return to the ones where we find problems. If we find too many problems, we issue citations or shut them down. It all depends on the circumstance, and we take this very seriously.”

 

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One Response to “Fire, safety violations prompt criminal charges”

  1. Nella Gay says:

    Big fires are usually cause in those establishments that neglect the importance of strictly following the fire codes. People tend to neglect it in order to save up on costs regarding acquiring equipment for safety and security. The codes are made for a reason and it is meant to be followed to prevent the occurence of fires that can cause greater damage and expenses.


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