Code violations and overcrowding prompted authorities to shut down two separate parties early Sunday -- one at a South Loop night club, the other at a Pilsen community center.
Owners of the 22Thirty9 nightclub admitted there were at least 144 people inside the venue -- which has a maximum capacity of 80 -- when the Chicago Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau arrived for a routine, unannounced inspection shortly after midnight, spokesman Larry Langford said.
Police and fire officials closed the business in the 2200 block of South Michigan Avenue for the night, and the patrons left in an orderly manner, Langford said.
“The owners were not happy but they were cooperative,” he said. Authorities also issued citations because the club lacked proper placement of exit signs, and because stools or chairs blocked a rear stairwell.
“From the back of the club if you’re looking forward you don’t see the exit signs,” Langford said of the venue, which lies about a block away from the site of the now-shuttered E2 nightclub.
Twenty-one people were crushed to death in a rush for the exits at E2 in a 2003 stampede.
“If something happened like at ... E2 and someone rushed the front stairwell, you could have a serious situation develop,” he said. “It’s a bad situation to develop where everyone rushes one exit.”
Officials also cited the establishment questioning whether fabric hanging in the stairwell was flame-resistant.
About 10 minutes later, a citizen called authorities to report a separate party in the 1800 block of South Racine Avenue that was overcrowded, Langford said.
People inside the multi-story, community center building refused to let crews inside, and firefighters were forced to break in using tools, he said.
“At some point before the fire and police departments arrived, someone was throwing objects off the roof of the building, including a satellite dish and other objects that damaged three parked automobiles,” Langford said.
“Obviously something was a little bit amiss.”
By the time officials got inside, the party in the basement had emptied out, but inspectors found a range of code violations, he said.
The only lighting in a stairwell to the second-floor bathrooms were candles in jars set on the edges of the stairs, which is not legal, Langford said.
Regarding the stairwell itself, “one side appeared to be extremely weak and ready to break,” Langford said. A second stairwell was also “extremely shaky” and roped off with caution tape.
The inspection also revealed live, exposed electrical wiring, non-functional emergency lights, open ceilings dotted with holes from broken plaster and at least one expired inspection tag on a fire extinguisher.
No one at the party claimed to be the building’s owner, he said.
“There will be citations issued for numerous violations, and a referral will be made for the Department of Buildings for a more complete inspection” of the building’s structural and safety issues, Langford said.
Police said they were not aware of any arrests stemming from either incident.
No one answered at phone numbers associated with either address early Sunday.
© Copyright 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC