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Published: Sunday, 2/20/2005

Firefighters watch over Allman concert

Fans of rock legend Gregg Allman packed Club Bijou in downtown Toledo last night - under the watch of firefighters who made sure aisles and exits were kept clear of a crowd that authorities said exceeded the venue's capacity.

Promoters sold 840 tickets for the show and by late last week said it was sold out.

But when fire crews arrived before the concert's 9 p.m. start, they found that the club did not have a current variance to allow anything more than its posted 500-person occupancy.

"It just puts us in a bad spot," Battalion Fire Chief Gary Martin said. "You've got two difficulties - remove the people and cause other problems or man the exits and assist if something happens."

The fire department chose to wait out the 90-minute concert, with 11 firefighters in the club and a pumper and heavy squad parked on Superior Street.

John Nittolo, promoter of the concert, said he was told the club had a capacity of 1,000.

The matter will be investigated by Deputy Chief of Operations Robert Metzger, Chief Martin said.

In November, 1999, Toledo firefighters faced a similar situation and handled it the same way. A promoter sold 1,200 tickets for a concert featuring blues/rock star Kenny Wayne Shepherd at Erie Street Market.

When a fire inspector showed up, he said occupancy regulations allowed for only 500 people to be in the venue. So 700 people who were left in the cold started yelling obscenities and pushing their way toward the doors.

Fire Chief Mike Bell allowed all those with tickets to go inside to avoid a disturbance, and ordered two fire pumpers and about 10 firefighters to stand by at the structure.

The firefighters at the Bijou raised their concerns one day before the second anniversary of a nightclub fire in West Warwick, R.I., that killed 100 people and injured nearly 200 others at a concert featuring the heavy metal rock band Great White.



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