ASSEMBLY REGULATORY OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE
"Testimony on safety in New Jersey amusement parks, sports
arenas, parks, nightclubs and
other entertainment venues; review current safety regulations that govern these places"
Committee Room 8
March 6, 2003
MEMBERS OF COMMITTEE PRESENT:
Assemblyman William D. Payne, Chairman
Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, Vice-Chairman
Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez
James F. Vari
|Gabby Mosquera||Thea M. Sheridan|
|Office of Legislative Services||Assembly Majority||Assembly Republican|
|Committee Aide||Committee Aide||Committee Aide|
Meeting Recorded and
The Office of Legislative Services, Public Information Office,
Hearing Unit, State House Annex, PO 068, Trenton, New Jersey
ASSEMBLYMAN WILLIAM D. PAYNE (Chairman): Good
morning. My name is William Payne, Chairman of the Assembly Regulatory
Oversight Committee. I welcome you here today to provide information for us
as to the extent of New Jerseyís regulations that are protecting the citizens of our
State at various venues here -- entertainment venues, and others.
The recent tragedies that occurred in some of the nightclubs and
other kind of entertainment venues around our country have given us pause. It
is our intention here to hear of any types of regulations that are currently in
place to protect our citizens. I think that it gives us an opportunity.
Unfortunately, it has taken such serious tragedies such as these to bring us to
this point. However, I think itís an obligation on our part to see to it that we
are proactive, to see to it that we can prevent these similar kinds of tragedies
that have existed elsewhere. Weíre not concerned only with those tragedies that
occurred as a result of fires. But, also, if you recall -- and Iím sure that itís not
long ago that we saw these headlines -- scores of people died in a Rhode Island
blaze, and also, in Chicago, other people who were victims in a stampede,
Chicago stampede, which killed 21 others. That was not as a result of a fire,
but as a result of panic that occurred within those facilities.
I think that what we need to do is be on top of these situations --
that we have not only nightclubs and other types of entertainment venues, but
we also have movie theaters. And I think that from time to time we do hear of
people who are attempting to leave a venue and find that either the doors are
locked or bolted, etc. I, even to this day, I hear anecdotal evidence of people
who are telling me that they have been in various kinds of entertainment venues
and recurring kinds of situations where they, number one, when something has
erupted, they did not know where the exits were -- that the exits may have been
blocked or locked, etc., here in our State of New Jersey. Itís incumbent upon
us, number one, to make sure that whatever regulations are in place are, in fact,
in place, and to see to it that those of us in positions of responsibility will have
ongoing inspections, etc., to see to it that these things are being complied with.
So we are having this hearing today in order to look into those
kinds of situations, and because we simply must prevent anything like this
happening in the State of New Jersey. With the pictures of the Chicago and
Rhode Island nightclub catastrophes still vivid in our minds, we want todayís
hearing to be more expansive in scope, as we will focus on public safety, and as
I say, a variety of entertainment venues. I have gone so far as to say that we
need to, also, look at the safety kinds of regulations that are in place for fairs
and for circuses, etc., that we have, traveling circuses, that travel throughout the
State of New Jersey and elsewhere. From time to time, we do read about, hear
about animals or elephants, etc., that sometimes panic, and people within these
sites sometimes have been injured because of that. I want to make sure that we
in New Jersey are at the very forefront of this.
The purpose of this hearing, as I say, is to review the current safety
rules and regulations governing these public venues, and ensure that there are
adequate safety procedures in place to prevent tragedies such as those that
occurred recently in Chicago and in Rhode Island. Twenty-one individuals died
in a panic stampede in Chicago, in order to escape from pepper spray. And I
want to see what are the kinds of trainings that are in place in our venues for
security -- people who are responsible for security. Do we have training there,
and who is responsible for seeing to it that these people are trained adequately.
We donít want this to happen in New Jersey, although itís
happened elsewhere. Itís our responsibility to ensure that there are proper safety
measures to keep New Jerseyís residents safe in a crowd. City and town
officials, along with State officials, must take a hard look at New Jerseyís code
enforcement laws and regulations. One life, let alone 118 lives, is too precious
to allow negligence on New Jerseyís entertainment venues.
I would say, Iím happy to see, here, we have the Commissioner of
the Department of Community Affairs, Susan Bass Levin, who will open up this
hearing by commenting on New Jerseyís safety rules and regulations. And we
have others, too, who are deeply involved in this.
And I would like to welcome the Commissioner at this time.
I would like, first of all, to introduce our Vice Chairman,
Assemblyman Joe Cryan, and Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez.
Thank you very much.
Would you have a statement to make, Mr. Cryan?
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: No.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: All right. Fine.
Then Commissioner Bass Levin, thank you very much for coming.
C O M M I S S I O N E R S U S A N B A S S L E V I N: Good morning,
Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak to this Committee about
New Jerseyís building and fire codes. As the Chairman said, two recent
nightclub tragedies have drawn national attention and raised numerous
questions about the adequacy of existing construction and fire safety
requirements in nightclubs and in other establishments.
Iím here this morning to tell the Committee and the citizens of New
Jersey that the building and fire codes in our State are very strong, that
enforcement of these codes is very strict, and that the penalties for violating
these codes can be appropriately severe. We are committed to take all
precautions necessary to keep our community safe.
In light of the recent tragic events in Chicago and Rhode Island, the
Department of Community Affairs has ordered inspections of nightclubs and
other similar establishments throughout the state. And we have asked the
Division of Fire Safety and the Division of Codes and Standards, within the
Department, to undertake a thorough review of the Stateís fire safety
requirements for these establishments.
The Division of Fire Safety is headed by Larry Petrillo, who is the
State Fire Marshall, and he is here with me. Since the inception of New Jerseyís
fire code, we have successfully reduced civilian fire fatalities by more than 70
percent in this State.
The Division of Codes and Standards is headed by Bill Connolly,
as the Director, who is, also, here with me. That Division enforces building
codes, in partnership with the Stateís municipalities, to protect the health and
safety of our citizens.
The first question is, what are we doing today? The State of New
Jersey has very stringent building and fire codes, and stringent code enforcement.
Our system is recognized as one of the best in the nation and hereís why: Our
building codes ensure that buildings are constructed correctly and safely in the
first place. Our fire codes ensure that buildings are inspected thoroughly and
regularly and remain up to code. Our codes are enforced by highly-trained
Under the Uniform Construction Code, New Jersey has adopted
national model building codes and standards. All new construction and
rehabilitation work is subject to plan review and inspections to make sure that
the work complies with codes and standards. Our construction code has
regulations when a building changes its use, from a restaurant to a nightclub, for
example, to ensure that we trigger a series of requirements including looking at
the construction of platforms and stages, the adequacy of exits, lighting,
illuminated exit signs, protection of stairways -- which are particularly essential
in a nightclub environment. Both our construction codes and our fire codes
regulate the flames-spread rating of interior finishes.
Our fire codes ensure that we have lighted exit signs, emergency
lighting, panic hardware on doors. All doors must open out, and interior
finishes must use materials that do not burn rapidly or produce heavy smoke.
In a routine occupancy, inspections are conducted annually. In
so-called hazardous occupancies -- nightclubs, nursing homes, hospitals -- as
defined in the code, inspections must be conducted quarterly.
The Uniform Fire Safety Act, enacted by our State, requires that
when a building is retrofitted or changes use, the stricter standards apply.
Penalties can be very high. Our goal is to keep our buildings safe, and so our
first goal is to correct the problem. However, penalties can be as much as
$5,000 per day, per violation.
Under our codes, fire officials have the authority to close buildings
where there is an imminent hazard or where the owner has willfully or grossly
been negligent in his failure to comply with our regulations. In our State, local
code enforcement requires building owners to document that products that they
put on walls complies with the flame-spread requirements of the codes for
The codes we have in place require that the main entrance be
capable of serving as an exit for at least half of the total occupants in the
buildings. And our codes limit the occupancy load for assembly spaces,
including nightclubs, to five square feet per person, even if the exits might
accommodate more. But all of this means nothing unless we have trained
inspectors, and we do. We have more than 2,000 licensed, trained fire
inspectors at both the State and local level, and 3,000 licensed and trained
building inspectors. Theyíre considered experts in fire safety and building safety.
Local code enforcement officials are licensed by the Department of
Community Affairs after demonstrating that they have the necessary education
and expertise, and passing an exam. Once licensed, the inspectors are required
to participate in continuing education courses to maintain their license. The
Uniform Fire Code relies on local officials for enforcement. Our fire code
enforcement is truly a statewide, cooperative effort. Every municipality must
participate in enforcement, unlike some states where enforcement is voluntary.
For any municipality who cannot conduct inspections, the State Division of Fire
Safety will do it for them.
Knowing that all of these codes and enforcement practices are in
place in New Jersey, let me talk to you for a moment about how our codes
could have prevented the Rhode Island and Chicago tragedies. The building in
Rhode Island was changed from a restaurant to a nightclub. Our codes would
have prevented such a transition from happening without the owner fulfilling the
tougher requirements for a nightclub. The fire in Rhode Island spread in an
extremely rapid rate, trapping many of the patrons, tragically, inside the club.
This suggests that the materials used on the walls and the ceiling surrounding the
stage were highly combustible. Itís been reported that the stage area had glued
on it a material known as egg-crate foam. This is a packing material. It is not
meant to be a finish on a wall.
Our construction and our fire codes regulate the flame-spread rating
of interior finishes. The local code enforcement official would have required the
building owner to document that the product he put on the wall complied with
our flame-spread requirements for interior finishes.
As the fire spread through that Rhode Island club, many of the
patrons tried to exit through the door they entered. Itís normal, human
behavior. Part of the problem in clubs where the exits are not clearly marked or
there are not enough exits is, you have the panic as people leave.
The codes that we have in place require that the main entrance or
exit be large enough so that at least half of the total occupant load can leave
through that doorway. Our codes limit the number of people that can be in a
building, and inspectors routinely check. And responsible nightclub owners
routinely are vigilant about the number of people that they allow in.
The situation in Chicago underscores the need for effective
enforcement. Itís reported that there was some kind of order to shut down the
club because of egress deficiencies. Had that order been enforced, the end of the
story would have been very different. I believe that when we look at New
Jerseyís inspection and licensing requirements, our mandatory periodic
inspections, our strict code enforcement and fines, we have had a strong system
in place to help prevent tragedies from occurring in our State. However, we
must do even more to make sure that the code is followed, especially with regard
to the installation of unapproved combustible sound-proofing finishes or
furnishings, the use of pyrotechnics and overcrowding.
So what have we done? Governor McGreevey called upon the
Department and the Division of Fire Safety to oversee the immediate inspection
of New Jerseyís approximately 1,500 nightclubs and related venues. We have
been working cooperatively with fire inspectors on the local level. The
Department itself has responsibility to inspect in, approximately, 100 towns, but
we have also been providing assistance, where needed, on the local level. We
contacted all of our fire officials, calling upon them to assist in these spot
inspections, and a copy of the letter we sent is in your packet. We also notified
all of the registered, licensed nightclubs to remind them of their responsibility
to follow the building and fire codes, because the best protection is from the
owner or manager of the property on site.
Our inspections are focusing on the interior finishes; on the
sound-proofing materials; on overcrowding; on exits, which must be
well-marked, well-lit, unlocked, and assessable. I want to just note that these
are spot inspections. They are not meant to be a complete and comprehensive
inspection, which will take place in the normal course.
To give you some sense of the 59 inspections that our Department
conducted this past weekend, 40 establishments passed. Clearly, there is
overwhelming compliance with our fire and building codes. Nineteen were
issued citations, including violations for locked exit doors, missing ceiling tiles,
unlit exit signs, overcrowding, and improper use of extension cords. Our
inspectors make sure that the violations are corrected immediately, and the club
owners have been very cooperative.
At a place called Legends Resort in McAfee, the inspectors were
required to take down combustible fish netting that lined the walls and ceiling
as decorations. At Paulís Tavern in South Belmar, an exit door was covered
with egg-crate foam -- thatís this (indicating foam) -- that was tested by
inspectors and found to be inflammable (sic). One of the walls had this covering
on it (indicating material), also tested and determined to be flammable. Fire
inspectors also shut down the Caribbean Bar and Grill in Trenton and the
Pattenburg House in Union Township because of overcrowding. If the club is
overcrowded, inspectors will shut them down.
We rely, though, too, on the owners and managers of these
establishments, most of whom are responsible business owners who care very
much about the safety of their patrons.
One of the things that we have prepared and will be sending to club
owners is a, sort of, simple list of doís and doníts as to how to keep your
premises safe. That way they can give it to their staff and -- so that all of the
staff members are aware and pay attention when exit sign lights are out or when
hallways are blocked or doors are blocked.
Many have asked about the use of pyrotechnics in New Jersey. Our
code requires that all pyrotechnics receive prior approval from the local or State
fire official -- that they test the pyrotechnics in advance; that they comply with
manufacturers specifications; that the owner or operator of the club
demonstrates to the fire official that he or she knows how to use the
pyrotechnics; and that they be discharged in a way thatís safe. We are ensuring
that if a club or its entertainment uses pyrotechnics they receive the proper
permits in advance.
We know that we have a good system in place, but we also know
that we can always do better. I would like to share with you several changes
that we are considering. We are in the process of creating an electronic reporting
system that will monitor and evaluate the activities of local enforcement
agencies to ensure that required inspections are being performed. The system,
now, is that they submit a paper report of their quarterly inspections. We are
putting this on an electronic database, so that we will be able to easily and
quickly see that inspections are completed. Weíll be able to better manage the
data, more easily identify repeat offenders, and ensure that inspections are
happening in the correct time frame.
Second, I have asked Larry Petrillo, as our Director of the Division
of Fire Safety, and Bill Connolly, the Director of Division of Codes and
Standards, to review all of New Jerseyís fire safety requirements, under both the
building codes and fire codes, to make recommendations as to how these codes
can be improved.
Several things that we are considering: Weíre reviewing the current
requirements for the use of sprinklers in retrofitted buildings. Sprinklers are
required in most nightclubs in New Jersey depending on their size, depending on
the location of their stages and platforms. But there are cases where, under our
current codes, sprinklers are not required.
In Rhode Island, no sprinklers were required because the capacity
of the club was 300 people or less. We need to take a careful look at these
sprinkler requirements to determine what changes should be made to ensure
safety. Weíre also recommending that all certificates and inspections --
certificates that tell us that a club is legal, that it has been inspected, that the
owner is in compliance -- those certificates need to be posted in a prominent
place. But if you think about it, weíve seen these certificates. Theyíre white,
with black lettering, small -- oftentimes you donít even know where they are.
We are recommending that the certificates be printed in a bright color, very
prominently displayed, so that as a patron goes into a club, he or she is aware
as to whether or not that club has been inspected and is in compliance.
Finally, we are looking at regulations that might apply to
furnishings within clubs. Currently, furnishings are not regulated. They do not
have any fire-resistant standards for the furnishings, and we are looking to
determine what action, if any, we should take.
Let me just close by saying, we all recognize that the tragedies in
Rhode Island and Chicago could have been prevented. And in New Jersey, at
the local level, at the State level, we have worked hard and together, as fire
officials, as building officials, to ensure the safety of our communities. We
know we must enforce our building codes and fire codes vigorously, and officials
across the State will continue to do so. We call upon club owners to be careful
and vigilant in protecting their patrons, and most of them do.
And New Jersey citizens should be mindful of the potential dangers.
Look for a certificate of registration, know where the exits are located, and make
sure that the pathways out are clear and not blocked. Our Department will
review the codes to make sure that we do everything possible to keep our
citizens safe. That is our responsibility, and we will fulfill it.
Thank you very much.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very, very much,
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I have questions.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: You have questions.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Thanks, Commissioner.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Sure.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I have the feeling most of my questions
are probably going to be directed to Larry Petrillo.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Okay.
Larry, why donít you join us up here.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Let me begin with the five-square-foot
rule, Larry, and a patron -- in a nightclub, if I understood it correctly. Why is
it five square feet? I always thought it was three.
Or did I get the wrong guy? Sorry.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: I think that might be yours.
W I L L I A M M. C O N N O L L Y: Yes.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: It sounds awful high.
MR. CONNOLLY: The building code--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Why donít you have a seat. And
identify yourself, please, for the record.
MR. CONNOLLY: Historically, the building code regulations--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Excuse me, could you identify yourself
for the record?
MR. CONNOLLY: Iím sorry. Iím sorry.
Iím Bill Connolly. Iím the Director of Codes and Standards.
Historically, our building codes of regulated occupancy are based
on whether people are standing or sitting, or whether there are fixed seats or not.
The standing rule is three square feet. When we wrote the fire code, we were
very concerned that that, particularly in a nightclub setting, could allow
altogether too many people, even if there were sufficient exits. And thatís why
the fire code includes this higher, more restrictive standard for nightclubs, which
is five square feet per person.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: And how long has that standard been
MR. CONNOLLY: 1986.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: So itís been five square feet.
So, can you explain to me, for those facilities that have both tables
and chairs and the standing area for dancing or bands, the table and chair area
is not-- How is the occupancy derived?
MR. CONNOLLY: In the table and chair area, you do two things:
You count the number of chairs and tables and then you use 15 square feet per
person, and whichever gives you the more restrictive is what counts. Where
youíve got seating thatís fixed, anchored to the floor, obviously, you just count
the seats. Where you have areas where people can stand, you do three square
feet per person. But if the sum of that is more than five square feet, you work
with the five.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Let me ask you one other question on
numbers that just came up in the Commissionersís insightful information.
Three hundred people for a sprinkler. Why is that?
MR. CONNOLLY: The reason -- and if you watch60 Minutes, you
know that some alleged experts donít know, but there is a reason. Our codes are
a combination of measures. Basically, we regulate the size of exits, the distance
to exits, the fire-resistive nature of the building. As the Commissioner
mentioned, the flame-spread rating of the finishes. The combination of all of
those provisions, if theyíre all complied with, will ensure that the fire can never
grow so fast that those 300 people canít get out.
Now, what happened in Rhode Island, obviously, is, a very critical
one of those provisions wasnít complied with. Now the reason, the
Commissioner indicated, weíre looking at fire suppression systems, even in
smaller buildings than the 300, is that they make up for a multitude of errors.
You can make a lot of stupid mistakes in a building, and the sprinklers will
recover you from all those stupid mistakes. But there probably is a threshold
somewhere, because the smaller the building gets, the more expensive the system
gets in terms of the square footage or the number of occupants or the cash flow
of the business. Because there are certain fixed sum costs, like the fire
department connection, the pump, and things like that that are there, no matter
how small the building is. So the cost of a sprinkler system in a big building--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Sprinklers are expensive, arenít they?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Yes.
MR. CONNOLLY: Theyíre very affordable in big buildings. They
can be rather expensive in small buildings.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Just let me urge, somewhat
patronizingly, though, but I am in, I do -- Iím in the restaurant business. Letís,
for once, recognize that this is an industry that, first off, hasnít done anything
wrong in New Jersey. Iím concerned -- and I do want to follow up on this
overcrowding idea -- that weíre not just going to come in and crucify people for
being in business.
But secondly, could we, at least for once, for a group that we audit,
overregulate, raise taxes, and do everything we can possibly do to make them be
guilty of everything in the free world, that we can possibly, for once at least,
recognize that sprinklers are an expensive cost and these folks follow the law for
the most part. So if we can, at least as a caution here -- I want to go on record
as saying that, because itís one of the things--
As soon as I read about that fire, I knew that we, in the State of
New Jersey, weíd go in and recheck businesses, which was fine by me. And
pyrotechnics, to me, we should just outlaw the things. But irregardless of that,
I just want to urge you, now, to have some caution and some relief for business
owners. Sometimes we forget that thatís, in fact -- these are small businesses for
a lot of people, and a lifeís investment.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Assemblyman, yes. Let me just
say that, I want to re-emphasize, of the 59 establishments that we checked, 40
of them were in total compliance. Of the other--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: But you didnít bring a list of those, did
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: I do have a list. I can certainly
provide a list.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: But you didnít bring it with you? You
brought the guilty ones, right?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: I think we do have the list of
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I know. The guilty ones are the ones
weíve heard about, is my point.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Well, the guilty ones are the
ones that put peoplesí lives at risk. And thatís--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Absolutely. And I was in Paulís last
week. So, believe me, I understand. I was at the Belmar Parade. So Iím
grateful for all your efforts, but itís just that we highlight the bad and not the
good sometimes, that is my message.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Right.
And let me just say, Assemblyman, that really what we want to
highlight is an education process, that everyone -- patrons, club owners, fire
officials -- understand how we can best protect our residents. And that is truly
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I agree with you.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: And just on enforcement, please
understand that, as you probably know, our code requires that we get the
problem corrected. Our goal is that, to get the problem corrected.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I have three other questions, and then
MR. CONNOLLY: Just one thing on sprinkler costs, though,
because I think itís important. People tend to misunderstand their relative cost.
The cost of a sprinkler system in a new building--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Itís management.
MR. CONNOLLY: --is the difference between cheap carpet and
good carpet, literally.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: And what does our code call for?
MR. CONNOLLY: In other words, if you took out the good carpet
and put in cheap carpet, you would have paid for the sprinkler system. Itís not
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: But what is our code-- Our code calls
for, when you retrofit and the capacity is over 300, or if itís new construction.
Is that correct?
MR. CONNOLLY: Thatís correct.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I just have a couple quick other things.
One is on fire inspections. You talked about, which interested me a great deal,
is the electronic data potential for the future. Because if I understand it, today,
when the guy comes in, he basically isnít looking at the last set of reports for
someone who failed, or anything like that. You could have changed inspectors.
Thereís no continuity in that program, is there? I donít mean it as a shot, but
as a general rule.
L A W R E N C E P E T R I L L O: Iím Lawrence Petrillo, the Director of the
Division of Fire Safety.
Generally, what an inspector should do, and I believe what they do
do -- I know our inspectors, our State inspectors, do that. Theyíll review the
establishmentís past inspection records and go in and conduct a new inspection
to, obviously, see if that compliance was conducted. So they, generally, will
take a look at--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Theyíll manually go back and check?
MR. PETRILLO: Yes. For example, weíre responsible for about
100 municipalities in the State. The other municipalities are conducted by the
local officials. They will, generally, pull their files, look at what they have had
in the past, and then go out and do the inspection. Our inspectors will pull a
packet before they go out and do their inspections.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Do inspectors highlight, as a general
practice? Iím lucky enough to say I havenít had repeated violations, thank
God. But if you do have them, I mean, how is that connotated to the owner?
Is it brought up-- Is it listed as part of the inspection process?
MR. PETRILLO: They receive a copy of our inspection findings
that list the violation and the site in the regs. So before that inspector leaves,
the owner will have that information.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: And heís aware of the fact that this, for
example, this exit light has been out two, three, four times or things like that?
Itís repeated for him.
MR. PETRILLO: If itís repeated, theyíll -- on a random inspection,
theyíll, again, recite that.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: If I could just clarify something.
If the inspector finds a violation, he notifies the owner of that
violation, and he does a reinspection to make sure that particular violation is
corrected. In addition, there is then a quarterly inspection for buildings over a
certain size. But the inspectors are supposed to go back and make sure that that
violation has been corrected.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I understand that.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: But to get to your point, which
is a very good one, weíre depending on inspectors to have a file and to have
papers and all of those things. And theyíre probably, like everything else -- some
do a better job. By putting it on an electronic system, we will have a much
better way of checking ourselves and making sure that the owners are aware.
Because they might not be aware of violations that are given that a club
manager takes. So to go to your point, Assemblyman, the electronic system will,
absolutely, improve our ability to enforce and, I think, our ability to educate
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Okay.
The furnishings: You want to fireproof furnishings?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: No, I didnít say that we wanted
to do that. I just said we need to look at that issue--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Okay.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: --and I want to make that clear.
Itís an issue that I think we should just examine internally, to determine what
our code looks like, as compared to other states. I just think we need to look
at it before we even make any recommendation. I want to make that absolutely
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Does every municipality have a fire
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Either that or we inspect for
them, the Department.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: How many municipalities do you
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: We inspect for 100
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: A hundred.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Well, approximately. It might
be a little -- 97, 98. And in this particular effort, we are providing support to
whatever municipalities might need our help, so that we can get these spot
inspections done quickly.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: All right.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Thank you very much.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Assemblywoman Cruz-Perez.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Iím not sure if the
Assemblyman had addressed this issue. I commend the Department, because
I think what weíre doing in New Jersey is more than many other states are
doing, and Iím glad to hear that. I thank the Commissioner for coming this
morning and inform us. But how are you going to prevent overcrowding clubs?
Are we going to have enough inspectors to go on a weekend basis, to make sure
that we donít have overcrowded buildings? I mean, what is it going to take, is
that -- you have 100 municipalities, but, I mean, how is that going to work?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Well, the best enforcement is
when the responsible club owners -- and let me emphasize, most of the club
owners are responsible -- they recognize that the club can only hold a certain
number of people, and when they reach that limit, they turn them away. And
in most instances, thatís what happens. I think thatís important to know.
However, when a club exceeds that limit is when people are put at risk.
And as Bill Connolly said, it is the combination of factors that can
result in a tragedy. Fire inspectors and police, in many of our towns and cities
across New Jersey, routinely check nightclubs in the evening. That is part of
what they do. We canít be everywhere all the time. I understand that. And so
we are depending on the business owners to do their job. And, yes, you know
what? Patrons have a responsibility, too. When a club is too crowded, you
should leave. And we should tell our children to pay attention to these things.
I understand. I have daughters myself.
But I do think itís important that we talk about this, because
everyone has a responsibility. You need to look for the lit signs. You need to
make sure that the passageways arenít blocked. Just as when you sit in an
airplane and they say, "Hereís where the emergency exits are." Itís simple rules
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Thanks.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Can I just ask one other question.
When this fire hit -- and I sat down with legislative staff-- Outside
of creating a law -- and youíve taken some very proactive actions -- let me just
ask you the question that I pondered to the Assembly staff, and maybe you can
just give us your thoughts. Without going through legislation, all right --
because this idea that we legislate everything sometimes concerns me. When I
go in a movie theater, they tell you-- You know, you get your popcorn and you
sit down, they say the exits are here and here. Yet, Iíve had -- my place is
probably overcrowded on St. Patrickís Day. I probably wouldnít argue that
point. But, realistically, when you start a show or something, what
commonsense approach can an owner take -- a guy that cares--
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Right.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: --without mandating all sorts of
requirements. I was thinking, do you stand up and say, "Okay, everybody,
thanks for coming," and, "Hereís where our exits are." Do you have any
commonsense approaches here that we could talk about?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Yes. And, in fact, these doís and
doníts, which are really commonsense approaches, which weíre sending out to
nightclub owners, one of them says, "Announce prior to and periodically during
performances the locations of all exits." Youíre right. Not everyone is going to
listen all the time. But to the extent that you make it safer, you can help change
the outcome. That is what a club owner can do.
As I say, just as in an airplane or in a movie theater, another very
good example, point out where the exits are. And you can say that at the
beginning of a performance, you can say it in the middle of a performance,
during a break, and that will absolutely help.
Youíre right. We donít need to overlegislate. We all need to take
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Commissioner, weíre fortunate today
that we have two perspectives on this Committee -- an owner of one of these
venues and patrons. Iím a patron. I donít own one of these places. You said
that our purpose today is to educate, and Iíve been to the Cryan family
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: And he paid. (laughter)
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: The purpose here is to educate, etc.
The overriding purpose, of course, is to save lives. The overriding responsibility
that we have is to see to it that our citizens are safe. And then, if we can
anticipate those kinds of hazards that may exist, then perhaps this hearing will
enable us to take care of some of those situations.
As I said in my opening statement, one life is too many to lose in
situations like this. I had made a note that during the course of an evening, that
an owner, or what have you, might very well remind patrons that these are the
places that exist here. My concern is this: That we have now a lot of attention
in this area. Are you certain that your inspectors do not look the other way?
In other words, again, anecdotal evidence tells me that from time to time there
are violations, obvious violations, in some of these places. My goodness, you
can go into some of them and see cartons, etc., stacked in front of the exit place.
Iím sure that these are places that are frequented by, maybe even,
by inspectors or by others, and Iím concerned that there may be some few
instances where inspectors may look the other way. What can we do to ensure
against that, because all we need is one situation where an inspection --
somebody looks the other way. All right.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Let me say that, just as with
club owners, the inspectors have a significant responsibility here. Our inspectors
are very well trained. They have to go for continuing education, and I think our
training is at the highest level in terms of how other states operate. We, through
the Division of Fire Safety, also provide ongoing assistance to local inspectors.
So we are certainly part of that team. One of the reasons that we sent letters,
now, to our fire inspectors is just to remind them of their obligations, and make
sure that they are doing the spot checks and looking for the types of things that,
yes, they should find in their routine inspections. But if they havenít, we should
all learn from it.
We are able to provide resources. We are able to provide ongoing
training. We, as part of the fire service community, certainly have ongoing
meetings, conferences, and workshops to make sure that our inspectors know
what they need to do. All I can say to you is this: We certainly want to make
sure that our codes are vigorously enforced. That is the way to protect lives.
The men and women who are in this business, who are fire safety inspectors, do
it because they are committed to protecting our communities. We certainly urge
them to enforce vigorously, with always an eye to getting the problem corrected.
This isnít about punishment. It is about correction.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Have you ever had any examples or any
enforcement teams that may not have been enforcing? In other words, have
there ever been any people in this area who may have been, in fact, not carrying
out their responsibilities for one reason or the other? I mean, Iím sure that this
business in Chicago -- probably it was quite obvious that there was some
violations there that might have saved a couple -- 21 peopleís lives. I donít
know whether or not we have, maybe, one or -- there might be one bad apple
in all of the municipalities that youíre checking with. Have we ever had any
examples? And if we do, what do we do about ensuring that we donít have a
club thatís open that has a chain on the door?
MR. CONNOLLY: The most important thing, in terms of
inspectors, is we just donít issue licenses. We take them away. Both the
Division of Fire Safety and the Division of Codes and Standards have ongoing
monitoring efforts. And when they find deficiencies, they take whatever
corrective action is warranted, depending on how severe the violation is on the
part of the inspector. But that ranges up to them losing their job. Every year in
New Jersey, inspectors lose their job, because they werenít doing it well enough.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much.
Just one last thing. And that is that youíve mentioned that, out of
59 inspections over the weekend, 40 were fine. Nineteen, however, there were
violations -- probably could have been life-threatening violations. I donít know.
And so, if thereís just one of these-- What kinds, very briefly, of violations did
you find within your inspections?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Most of the violations were
minor in the sense that exit sign lights were out, two were overcrowding, and we
closed the place down. There were some instances where there were exits
blocked. As I mentioned, one of the clubs had flammable materials on it. In
all of these instances, the violation was corrected immediately. Our fire
inspectors donít leave until they can get the problem corrected.
And let me just emphasize, again, that in these instances the owners
were cooperative. They have an interest in making sure that their patrons are
safe. Let me just add, also, that as we take a look at our fire codes, as we take
a look at our building codes, issues of sprinklers and retrofitting, we certainly
will be working with the restaurant associations and other associations that deal
with this every day. That is what our Department does when we work on the
amusement ride regulations or anything like that. We make sure that we involve
people who are very much affected by it. You have our assurance that we would
do that here as well.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Yes. I was trying to find out what
association represents nightclubs and other places. I know thereís a restaurant
association for restaurants, etc., but what-- Is there an association that you guys
work with, with the owners of these entertainment venues?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Thereís a License Beverage
Association. And, of course, many nightclubs are, also, in the restaurant
ownersí association, so thereís certainly a crossover there.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Assemblywoman Cruz-Perez.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Yes. I have a question for
the Commissioner. You said you closed down two overcrowded clubs. What
happened after you closed them down? Would you allow them to open again?
What would be the procedure after you close a club?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: It differs, depending on the
situation, how overcrowded it is, what time it is. And frankly, it differs
depending on the local municipality. Sometimes they close it down, and they
donít let them open. Sometimes they close it down, and they have everyone go
out and bring people back in, which often causes more chaos than anything else.
As I said, a lot depends on what time of night it is. Thereís probably, also, a
different approach, depending on how frequent this problem is at the particular
So this is something that is within the discretion of the fire official
who is on the scene, or sometimes itís police officers who are on the scene, to
make the decision.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: So you close a club
temporarily for that night, until the overcrowding problem goes away. I believe
that club will get penalties or a fine--
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Usually, on the first violation,
they donít get a fine. If there is a repeat violation, thatís when fines start to kick
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Can I--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: We--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I know we have to move on, but I just
want to-- By the way, Iím sure those two owners were less than cooperative for
having a big night and then closed down. Maybe they were happy outside, but
hard to believe.
Anyway, we focused a lot in this testimony on nightclubs. I guess
my last question to you is, are there other areas or other businesses that we
should be talking about or focused on, as well as the nightclub issue?
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Our review of the fire codes will
look at many different types of establishments. Youíre right. We focused today
on nightclubs because of the tragedy, but we will be taking a look at our fire
codes to determine whether or not any revisions are needed for other industries.
Subsequent to 1984, the fire at Great Adventure, we changed our
codes to -- as they apply to special amusement buildings. Unfortunately, too
often, changes occur only after a tragedy. We need to be proactive and take a
comprehensive look at our codes. And perhaps we wonít need to make any
changes, perhaps we will. But weíre going to look at this as professionals
working with the industry, working with the communities, to determine what,
if anything, we can do to make our communities safer and better.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much, Commissioner.
Patrick Aramini and Richard Ryan, from the New Jersey Sports and
As theyíre coming, you noticed in the notice that we sent out that
we indicated that we were talking about more than just nightclubs and
restaurants. Weíre looking at other venues as well. So, Commissioner, I donít
know whether your responsibility is in the area of these other venues that we
talked about, but we want to make sure that weíre talking beyond that and not
just highlighting nightclubs or taverns or etc.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: And let me just say that staff
from our Department will be staying here to hear the rest of the testimony. So
that, if that any other issues come up, theyíll be able to help or, at least, bring
it back, if we need to do more.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you.
COMMISSIONER BASS LEVIN: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Gentlemen, you can start when youíre
ready. Identify yourself for the record, please. Thank you.
R I C H A R D R Y A N: Richard Ryan. Iím Assistant Vice President. I
oversee security at Continental Airlines Arena in Giant Stadium, which is part
of the Meadowland Sports Complex, in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
P A T R I C K C. A R A M I N I: Patrick Aramini, Assistant Vice President
of Security at the Meadowland Sports Complex.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you.
MR. RYAN: Iíd like to thank you for inviting us here today. We
came prepared not knowing what the majority of the focus was going to be
today -- about fire safety. So we came prepared to talk about overall security.
However, since sitting here, itís obvious what weíre talking about. Weíve made
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Excuse me, before you go any further.
MR. RYAN: Yes, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: I want you and everybody else to
understand, as Iíve said a couple of times, that this is not simply about fire
safety, etc. Weíre talking about, as a matter of fact -- one of the incidents in
Chicago was not on fire at all, but was because of the panic and stampede that
MR. RYAN: Yes, sir.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: So weíre talking beyond that. And
also, weíd like to talk about whether or not people who are responsible for
security in these venues are trained on how to respond to these kinds of things,
which lead to the tragedy in Chicago.
MR. ARAMINI: Well, weíre prepared to do that. In fact, weíre
prepared to discuss how proactive weíve been since post 9/11 at Giant Stadium
and Continental Arena, and what security measures we have taken.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Very good.
MR. RYAN: But we will try to direct what youíre interested in
today. Just for your information, we have a lot of State inspections down in the
Meadowlands. Weíre a State facility. In fact, our main inspector is here today.
Mr. Lazarus is sitting behind us, and I almost feel heís part of our full-time staff,
I see him so much.
In place at the Meadowlands, we have evacuation plans in the
event of any type of an emergency. We have a mass casualty plan in the event
of a mass casualty incident, such as a 9/11 kind of thing, which we actually put
in place on 9/11 as a staging area for the 9/11 disaster. Our staff at the
Meadowlands -- weíre fortunate. We have a detachment of New Jersey State
Troopers who are assigned there on a full-time basis. And our event staff, who
are our security guards, work both the stadium and the arena, which, if there
was going to be a disaster of this type, would probably occur in one of those
buildings, more so the arena. They work over 250 events a year, and theyíre
part-time. Many of those part-time staff people are, in fact, firemen in their
We also have a full-time fire department at the Meadowlands; 13
full-time firemen on duty, on site. They work 24-hour shifts, around the clock.
In fact, our fire chief is a full-time fireman in the city of Newark, Mr. Sal
Fischetta, and theyíre all State certified as fire inspectors along with Josh, who
also comes from the State Department. On all major events, whether itís in the
arena or the stadium, we utilize the New Jersey State Police Arson Explosives
Unit. They are trained arson investigators, and they come with the Canine Unit,
who have dogs who are trained to sniff for explosive devices. As a part of their
duties there, especially during concerts, which is when we usually use pyro, the
dogs do check the stage area or any area that pyro is going to be set off. I can
assure you they work. They sit down every time they go near it.
But itís good as a backup system because, if a group did come in
and try to tell us that they werenít going to have pyro, those dogs are still in that
area where any pyro would be set off, and theyíll respond to it. So weíll realize
that someone did come in here and is trying to set pyro off without notifying us.
Thatís never happened that Iím aware of.
Besides the dogs, Josh is there. He comes before every event, checks
the setup, gets the permits. We have all the permits in place. And when the
show takes place, we actually have, at least, three of our full-time firemen on
duty, stationed in the stage area, ready to respond to any unforseen accident or
We, also, do -- during the course of the year in both the stadium,
arena, and the racetrack -- evacuation drills, what we call event drills and
non-event drills, to train our people in the evacuation of the buildings, whether
itís a fire scene, or an explosive device has been found, or whatever. We
actually train them along with the State Police.
Before every major event in the arena, which are basically the New
Jersey Devils and New Jersey Nets, we do a walk-around, prior to the opening
of the building, with people from the franchises. And believe me, that is a
thorough walk-around, from checking to see if every toilet works, that every
lightbulb is working, and to see if those fire exit signs are lit, and things of that
nature. Because theyíre, also, as concerned about safety as the Sports Authority
We do a bomb sweep before every event. Itís conducted by our
event staff personnel. However, all the key areas are checked by the State Police
Bomb Squad with their canines. To check an entire building with a dog prior
to an event would take hours and hours, and we just donít have that time. So
the event staff people are trained. Theyíve been trained by the State Police
Bomb Squad, and they know what theyíre looking for, and things of that nature.
If they find anything suspicious, obviously, the State Police are contacted
immediately, and theyíll check what the item is.
One of your concerns is overcrowding. All events at the stadium
arena are all ticketed events. We have a capacity in the arena to hold up to
20,000 people for basketball games. Probably the most we do for a concert in
the arena is usually between 15,000 and 16,000, for safety reasons -- as well as
the fact that what we call the backstage area is not sold to the public, unless the
stage is in what we call the round, which would be on the floor in the center of
the arena -- then we could possibly sell 20,000. A type of concert that would
be in the round would be when we used to have Frank Sinatra there. Itís not the
kind of concert that weíll probably be setting off pyro at. Itís a more laid-back
And Springsteen, obviously, is not in the round. Heís on one end,
and weíll do, like, 15,000 to 16,000. In fact, we have nine Springsteen shows
scheduled, right now, for the stadium this summer, and the tickets sales have
been capped at 55,000 for each show. The stadium holds 80,000 for football.
So we are limiting the amount of people.
No, and I canít help you get tickets. (laughter) I saw you
whispering already up there, Gabriela. That was her first question.
Call George Zoffinger. Heís in charge of tickets.
We also have, in the buildings, evacuation tapes. We play entrance
tapes prior, as youíre walking in, listening to some of our policies. And God
forbid something does happen where we have to evacuate the building, we have
pre-prepared tapes to play within the building and outside the building in both
English and Spanish. We went to the Spanish tapes because we do the soccer
in the stadium, and itís such a Hispanic patron-oriented event. So weíve made
tapes up in both languages, and theyíll play. They just repeat, over and over
again, the rules and regulations, what to do to get out of the building.
Pat, do you have anything?
MR. ARAMINI: Other than that, we do routine fire inspections of
all three facilities -- the Meadowlands Racetrack, the arena, and the stadium --
on a daily basis. Sometimes itís with our State inspectors. Our fire department
maintains and inspects all fire extinguishers, standpipes, and hoses in all three
facilities. As Mr. Ryan stated, they are state certified. We send them back to
school, to a fire academy, to be State certified. And all exits are inspected to
make sure theyíre operational and that theyíre not locked.
During an event, all gates coming in and out of the arena-- The
doors are locked for people to come in, but all gates have a push door. All open
up out to the public. Thereís no smoking allowed in the arena. At the stadium,
the only place you could smoke is in the spiral. And, obviously, the stadium
itself if 90 percent concrete and steel. So weíre pretty well prepared as far as
As far as the pyro, as Mr. Ryan stated, we do inspect it. They do
stand by the inspectors all night when the pyro does go off. Itís not like in one
of these nightclubs. Our State inspectors do stand by with our fire department.
And if, in fact -- and Iíve known of one occasion where they have stopped the
pyro because they didnít feel it was proper. The State inspector has a lot of
authority for that type of operation, and we do enforce it.
MR. RYAN: If youíre looking for any recommendations -- just the
little bit Iíve learned here in the last hour -- obviously, I think, your concern is,
maybe, more towards the nightclub-type of activity. I would be concerned that
-- maybe there is a way they could get the evacuation tape that they could play
in these buildings. They have to have a sound system for the band or
something. Maybe there is some kind of tapes they could have set to help
evacuate people. And, also, check their staffing levels. Do they have any
security people even working, when you might have 300, 400, 500 people in
some of these nightclubs -- and one or two security guards, which, obviously, is
not adequate? Iím not, again, asking to have some kind of legislation
introduced, but it might be a doís and doníts or a recommendation sheet, like,
apparently, theyíve already made up. And maybe then you might want to
consider putting something like that into it.
MR. ARAMINI: Obviously, one of the problems that happens is
that everybody comes in the same entrance, and thatís why people always go
out the same exit. I donít know if itís available to other places to have more
than one entrance, obviously, to alleviate that, because itís human nature. We
donít have that problem at the stadium and the arena, because we have, at least,
six or eight different entrances and exits. But in the smaller places where people
-- human nature -- going into one individual entrance, thatís where they all go
for when theyíre ready to leave, regardless of what other signs say, "Exit."
MR. RYAN: And thatís so true. They will. "I came in GateA, I
want to go out GateA. Thatís where my car is," or whatever. They donít
realize they can go out GateB and just walk along in the parking lot. Itís hard
to train people. There will be an emergency, and I can see people come up, "But
I came in GateA, I canít go out Gate A." No, youíre going out this gate.
MR. ARAMINI: In addition, what we did after September--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: What happens a lot of times when
people go out the other gate at Giant Stadium, they walk around there for hours
trying to find their car.
MR. RYAN: Yes, sir.
MR. ARAMINI: Right.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: I mean, Iíve lost my car for a couple
of hours. (laughter)
MR. RYAN: Assemblyman, I can tell you, at the end of every
Giant and Jet game, we have at least five to seven, eight, 10 people come into
our security office to report their car stolen. (laughter) The five to seven to 10
people we put in a van and ride them around and we find them. The cars are
not-- And theyíre convinced that somebody towed their car, and it wasnít
MR. ARAMINI: What we did after September 11 is, we had an
outside firm come in, and we had a total threat assessment done -- for safety,
security, including fire, for all three facilities -- by Buckley Peterson Company.
In addition, the NFL conducted their own threat assessment. And Mr. Ryan
has, for all three venues, a best practices done by the NHL, the NBA, and--
MR. RYAN: The NBA. All the major sporting leagues in the
country have put together a best practices and procedures for their venues. Itís
not something you have to do. Itís strong recommendations.
I sat on the committees of all three leagues to establish this best
practices and procedures, and they are in place at the Meadowlands, I can
assure you. Theyíre in place in almost every facility, Iím sure, across the
country. They have a real concern for safety and security.
In fact, I was on the phone yesterday with the director of security
for the National Hockey League, who had just attended a meeting with the CIA
and FBI, and had new information about threat assessment and things, and he
was passing it along to me. He took it so serious, like rather than e-mail, he was
calling every venue where the hockey teams play in the country to talk to the
person in charge. So, believe me, we are aware, and weíre, hopefully, on top of
MR. ARAMINI: What weíve done also, and weíve handed out a
handout, which was actually from a PowerPoint, which shows you what we do
at Giant Stadium after September 11, if you would like to go through it. If you
want it, we have a short video, also.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: How short is it?
MR. ARAMINI: About five minutes.
MR. RYAN: I believe itís -- the NFL came and videotaped our
operation and Cleveland Stadium, football stadium, just for security reasons
and showing different things, whether youíre interested. Itís not really
MR. ARAMINI: But, basically, what you see on this handout
would be sufficient. The other thing is, we prohibit bottles and cans from
coming into the venues. Itís not just -- obviously, originally, it was for
projectiles, so people canít throw things at the players. But the reason we take
the bottles and cans-- In fact, we have an alert now for even -- this may sound
-- lightbulbs or somebody carrying a fire extinguisher, because they can carry
flammable liquids in there or some type of chemical agent, besides. So we ban
all of those items. Peopleís packages are checked as they come in. They have
to surrender those items.
What we did, as part of our threat assessment, we also have the FBI
assigned to us at the stadium for all large events, and we get a threat assessment
before every NFL football game and soccer game. And we will for all the
concerts that are coming up.
MR. RYAN: Talking fire safety, we brought some items along that
we confiscate at our gates. Hereís a cigarette lighter -- however, itís a
switchblade. These are the kind of things people are carrying into our venues.
Weíre discovering these at the gates. A common writing pen in your pocket, pull
it apart. Itís a shiv. Itís a small knife. Something like you would find in a
prison. Itís kind of scary. Actually, we got this from the Newark school
systems. One of our guards is a school teacher in Newark, and they put a notice
out to their school teachers to be alert for the kids with these things. Within a
week, we were getting these things at the arena. We saw a pen, you never
checked it. Now we check pens.
Weíll get comments, "Why are you checking all these things? Why
canít I bring it in?" If you give me a second, Iíd like -- two or three things that
Iíd like to show you that we have gotten at our gates, that you would find
interesting, probably. Binoculars: Youíre allowed to bring binoculars in, but
thereís fake binoculars. Youíre allowed to bring binoculars in, but itís a fake
binocular. It holds alcohol. Why could it not hold a biochem agent? So you
might be coming in and the guard may grab your thing and shake it. If it
swishes, itís full -- usually liquor. So weíd take that away. I have a whole
handful of those.
Why do we not allow thermoses in? Itís cold. Itís December. We
want to bring in hot chocolate. Well, you take the top off of this particular
thermos-- No, nothing is coming out. Take the bottom off-- Excuse me. Take
the bottom off, it holds the anisette for the hot chocolate or the coffee thatís in
the other thermos. Okay. (laughter)
Joe, youíll be selling these probably next week. (laughter)
But also, what else could it contain? I mean, it could contain a
MR. ARAMINI: Or a flammable liquid.
MR. RYAN: Or a flammable liquid. This is probably one of--
Well, a Pringlesí can. I canít bring in my potato chips -- it holds two cans of
beer. Okay. There are just two other ones I want to show you, if I can find it.
Obviously, we get a lot of flasks; people bringing in a little hooch for the game.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Can I pick it up after I come back out?
MR. RYAN: We really donít receipt things. I mean, we can get,
like, 50 of these at a game, possibly--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Is that right?
MR. RYAN: --and itís really tough to receipt. We give you the
opportunity to return it to your vehicle, and usually they donít want to go back
to the vehicle. This is probably one of the most--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Some get through, by the way, every
once in a while.
MR. RYAN: Iím not saying this stuff isnít getting in. Believe me,
we canít do a real serious pat-down like youíre under arrest, because it just
wouldnít work. The lines would be a mile long, and theyíre long already.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: An IV?
MR. RYAN: This thing, how it works, was under a patrons clothing
coming into a concert at the arena. The tube came up underneath the clothing
and came out at the shirt collar, right here. The guard saw this person with this
thing sticking out -- it was a female coming in -- confronted her, brought her
back to our processing area, and we had female guards check her. Itís actually
like an IV bag out of a hospital. She had it full of beer. (laughter) Thatís the
sophistication theyíll go through to bring things into the venue.
Basically, all the other stuff-- We have a lot of different kind of
weapons, and things that weíve confiscated.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER FROM AUDIENCE: Plus their beer.
MR. RYAN: Yes. Itís 6.50 for a beer. She saved 6.50, she thought,
by bringing one beer in.
MR. ARAMINI: One of the other things that weíve done since
September 11: No vehicles are permitted under the buildings of the
infrastructure during the event, including the owners of the teams and including
the Governor. No one is permitted to park under the building anymore.
The team buses, themselves, with the team, are searched at the
hotels by State Police, and they actually are wrist-banded, including their
baggage that comes in, to prevent any type of vehicle from getting -- all large
vehicles-- If a truck wanted to come in to do catering in the parking lot, it is
stopped and searched to make sure that thereís nothing close to the facility that
could contain explosives.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: One of the things -- this is, weíre aware
of the heightened efforts since 9/11, etc., etc., and even before that. One of the
major -- for instance, in some of the venues around the world, when you have
soccer games and things like that, youíve had people who were crushed in
stampedes, etc. We donít have that kind of thing or, perhaps, thereís some
training that you guys have for that kind of thing. But weíre concerned,
obviously, about preventing that kind of thing. We havenít had that in any of
our venues that I know about, and I donít know whether or not you have.
Thatís, obviously, been taken into consideration.
For instance, with all doors opening out -- and I meant to ask the
Commissioner before -- that Iíve gone to a number of places where the doors
enter in, and people just always get crammed up behind them. But I guess those
are the kinds of things that you have, and I thank you for it.
MR. RYAN: Weíve hosted the Menís World Cup and the
Womenís World Cup in Giants Stadium, and we are very aware of what youíre
talking about -- the crushing of fans. Most of those incidents that occurred at
soccer matches have occurred overseas or in South America. And theyíre at
venues that have open seating, where thereís just wooden benches that you go
in, and thereís no ticketed-- So thereís 50 people sitting where there should be
20 people, probably. And all our major soccer matches are all ticketed seating.
We have what we callcrash gates on our perimeter fence line outside the stadium
and arena, which are locked on entry -- and everybody goes through and has
their ticket ripped at a certain point -- but once the event is almost over, within
five to 10 minutes of the end of that event, we swing these big crash gates open
to help the people exit faster out of the buildings.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much.
In the interest of time, I think we want to move on.
I thank you very much.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Can I just say this one-- What about
the cattle ramps? The cattle ramp at the Meadowlands?
MR. RYAN: The walk-over bridge?
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: The walkover?
MR. ARAMINI: Thereís a new walk-over bridge now.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Right. Iíve been on it. Any fire
concerns there at all, for any reason? I mean, youíre really packed in there.
MR. ARAMINI: No. Thatís a new construction from the last
several years, and itís physically capable of taking a motor vehicle over it, and
itís mostly constructed of concrete and steel. We have CCTV in there. We
have video in there. Weíre monitoring the entire length of that bridge, from
either the Stadium Security Office or the Arena Security Office. Itís a concern --
youíre right -- especially if itís a football game, and itís a close game and all
80,000 people stay until the end. Thereís a crush going over that bridge.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Yes. That goes to the Chairmanís
MR. ARAMINI: Yes.
MR. RYAN: We have people assigned to the bridge, security
officers, and we do monitor that closely with the cameras.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: One other quick thing. The only other
area of crowding thatís been in there, that Iíve seen, is in the rest rooms. I
noticed, like, if you go in the in door for the menís room -- like, if itís packed,
if there was a fire, you canít go out the in door, unless-- You donít have a
handle or anything like that. Is that a concern at all? I mean, just sitting here
listening to you.
MR. RYAN: I never gave it a thought, but you just put a lightbulb
off in my head. Iím going to look at that when we go back. Youíre right.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: You could cut down on the beer sales.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Well, no.
But the idea is that if you get a fire with smoke--
MR. RYAN: At least you can get into the menís room. Some
events, the ladies are lined up outside trying to get in, because--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Iím aware of that, yes.
MR. RYAN: We actually do events where we change menís rooms
into ladiesí rooms, just because thereís more of a-- We know this particular
event is going to attract more of a female crowd.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Thanks.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much.
MR. RYAN: Thank you, sir.
MR. ARAMINI: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Iíd like to call on Domenic Santana,
owner of The Stone Pony.
One of the things about the Giants football games is that you have
female women out there -- you have females searching people as they come in,
and I see guys fighting to get into the line where the females are. (laughter)
MR. RYAN: That is very true. And theyíre instructed -- the females
are supposedly only supposed to pat down other females, whereas the males,
obviously, pat down the males. But, unfortunately, many of the people coming
into the games have had a few beers in the parking lot or at Cryanís Restaurant
before they got here, and theyíre all jumping to have that female pat them down,
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much.
MR. RYAN: Youíre welcome, sir.
D O M E N I C S A N T A N A: Good morning.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Good morning.
MR. SANTANA: Good morning, Mr. Chairman.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Identify yourself for the record, please.
MR. SANTANA: Domenic Santana. Iím the owner of The Stone
Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
Coming here today after the tragedy -- this really has hit home to
us personally. Our whole staff has been emotionally affected. I, myself, for the
loss that -- and the unknown, and the circumstances that when you run the risk
with lives at stake, there is no dollar value that could replace one life.
We had the band that caused the tragedy over in Rhode Island a
week prior. Just to see those vivid pictures -- those are something that Iíll never
forget, because that could have been us, Chairman. So it really hits home. So,
I mean, weíve looked at it hard, and weíve changed our whole policies around,
as far as our stage managers go. We hold people accountable. We should have
been able to have detected that, going on our stage. So we are ultimately
responsible, and just thank God that it wasnít us. I think in a situation like
that, first and foremost, we do have a sprinkler system. And thatís one of the
things that we do check on periodically. We do have different systems in place.
We do hire paramedics and off-duty fire volunteers. So weíve gone through a
In 29 years of business, that place has a stellar reputation around
the world. And just one incident, thatís all it takes. I know in this business
youíre unrehearsed for an incident, and you donít have a second chance when
youíre dealing with peopleís lives. So itís a very serious situation, and Iím really
proud to be here to share some of our personal -- what weíve looked, and what--
Last night, I just made 10 bullet points in preparation for today,
coming here before you. In the 20-somewhat years that Iíve been in business,
knock on wood (knocks on desk), not one insurance claim. Iím really proud
of that, and I want to keep it that way.
First of all, in reference to sprinkler systems, I know that, right now,
itís a national thing that says venues under 300 donít need them. Iíll tell you
what. If I had a venue with 100 capacity, I, personally, would put a sprinkler
system. So thatís from my own personal opinion.
As far as extinguishers, when I see those vivid pictures on TV, I say
to myself, "Whoever shot those fireworks, pyros, whatever you want to call
them, should have had a fire extinguisher on hand, and that would have
prevented 98 lives-- Right now, Iíve driven three of my local fire extinguishers
companies out of stock. I have fire extinguishers in my bathrooms. I have fire
extinguishers now, personally, at home, because it has hit me personally. I have
taken it personal. So, I mean, am I overexaggerating?
Those pictures, to me, when I see the flames rushing up, and I just
think of a fire extinguisher, I couldnít have enough fire extinguishers right now
in my own places of business and in my home. My wife thinks Iím nuts
because I have five extinguishers, now, in every room. But itís not only the club,
but I look at, personally, all the homes and all the fires. I do have kids. I have
a family. So I think fire extinguishers are the greatest things that have come
The panic bars -- I know that panic bars, in situations in a lot of
smaller -- because I do own a small Cuban restaurant in Jersey City, also. I
know that when I first started in my business, that I had to take from my kidsí
piggy bank to open up the register the first day of business. Iíll never forget that.
And then for a fire marshal to tell me that itís $400 for a panic bar, in situations
back then, it would have been real hard. I look at the situations now. What
Iím facing is, those are the best investments that any business could have. If
youíre going to be in business, be prepared, because itís the safety and peopleís
lives that come first.
The one thing as far as, personally, what weíve looked at, because
clubs -- nightclubs in specific -- theyíre dark. I mean, visually, for you to get the
best effect theatrically from a stage, you need to have a dark environment. Iíve
now-- And the house lights. In the case of an emergency, there is one main
switch that turns on the house lights. Iíve called in my electrician to make sure
that the main house light switches are available and accessible at different points
of the club. For if there is an emergency that happens in one place, and no one
has access to the one main switch, Iím going to have other main switches
throughout the club to be able to access the house lights on.
In reference to exits -- right now weíre just thinking from the top of
our heads, and weíre going to look into putting fire exit signs on the floors, by
the exit doors. Because in case of a fire, smoke goes up -- smoke that you canít
see those exit signs that are going to be blocked. Weíre looking at neon glow-inthe-
dark signs that we will place by our doors. Weíre also thinking of putting
the strips of lights around our doors that are, also, connected to a battery
backup in case you lose all power, that the whole strip of lights around the door
So, yes, we want to do more than are called by codes that are on the
books, because it personally affected us. That we looked back and said, "This
could have been us." And I wouldnít want to have 98 lives on my shoulder here
So beside those situations, I know that we are already doing the
airline exit situation and focusing the spotlight on every exit at the beginning of
a show. I think that a lot of venues need to do that, as well, prior to a show.
It does make sense. Because as people have said, and the Commissioner said
before, it is the common sense of the human nature for you to exit the door that
you came in. So all our shows now, after the shows, weíre blowing all our exit
doors open, and weíre redirecting and showing people that there are other exits,
then, to educate them and to show them. Thatís one thing that people should
really -- after all is said and done -- really notice that there are other points of
Staff training, as far as staff, the volunteer paramedics, and the fire
safety, we have retired personnel that assist us. And they are great with our
staff, as far as training. We periodically talk about the situations. We always
say, "What if, what would we do?" And thatís what we constantly have to ask
ourselves. If youíre going to be in business, itís very serious, nowadays, with all
thatís going on that you take the preventative measures. I think that more
people, after today, have realized, as small businesses, that we have to start
thinking this way. We didnít back then. We have to now.
As far as first-aid kits. I know Iíve gone to places where Iíve gotten
cut, and I havenít had a Band-Aid -- simple situations like that.
Radio communications -- thatís one thing that clubs, depending on
the size-- Once the pyros went off on our club on February 14, our stage
manager reacted, rushed the stage, and we had a security alert -- all security to
the stage. We reacted.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Excuse me. I read where this same
outfit, this entertainment group, had pyrotechnics in your club the week before
MR. SANTANA: Yes.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: And you said that when they went off
during the show, your people rushed to the stage, etc.?
MR. SANTANA: Correct.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: The question I have is how did they get
in, in the first place? I mean, this is a group, I would imagine, that uses this in
their act, correct?
MR. SANTANA: Yes, correct.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Is it usually the procedure that these
groups are to notify the owners that theyíre going to use pyrotechnics and they
get approval or not? I mean, in other words, why wasnít it checked before
hand? As you say, youíre very fortunate that this didnít happen in your place,
but it could very well have happened in your place, I suppose. Why is it -- how
is it that they were able to bring these into your club?
MR. SANTANA: Well, first and foremost, when you book a band,
a national band, you sign the contract and in the contract is a rider. And in the
rider, it stipulates everything as far as the stage plot, and who, what, when,
where. And all of that, then, is in the advanced process when your general
manager calls the tour manager and speaks about the accommodations, all the
details, and everything. None of that was mentioned.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: All right. Did you pay them?
MR. SANTANA: The night of the show, yes we did. After the
show, yes we did.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: They violated the contract. They
brought in pyrotechnics. They fired -- they set them off. Why did they get
MR. SANTANA: After we realized the circumstance, once we
rushed to the stage and everything, and the tour manager just like, basically,
shrugged it off -- that this is no big deal; we do this all the time; it doesnít hurt
anybody -- we just let it go. At the end of the night, we did have words with
them. They come from a good booking agency that we felt -- you donít want
to endanger, with the agents, for future bookings of other acts.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: So the next week that 100 people died
there, or whatever -- I donít know the number. So the next week these same
group of people, who were not chastised at all for bringing this in, have the same
thing and people lose their lives. In other words, what Iím saying is that there
seems to me that we need to be a little bit more proactive on these things. That
there needs to be, for instance-- Because this can happen, and it did happen in
a situation like that. If these people had a contract that said they -- did not
include that, and they did it, and there was nothing that kept them from going
on to the next venue, they did it and then people lost their lives.
Let me ask you a question. I know you have some other points, but
I want to move, on the interest of time. But have you ever had any instances
where-- Youíve been in business how long?
MR. SANTANA: Twenty-six years.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Twenty-six years. You own a place --
and you own a couple places, at least, right?
MR. SANTANA: Yes.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Have you ever had any of the
inspectors come in to look the other way or suggest that maybe they might look
the other way? In other words, have you had any kind of experience like that?
MR. SANTANA: No.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: No. In the 20-some-odd years that
youíve been in business, youíve never had an inspection?
MR. SANTANA: They havenít caught things that I knew were
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: You never had an experience where an
inspector, or somebody responsible for this, suggested that maybe they would,
kind of, overlook something?
MR. SANTANA: No.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Never?
MR. SANTANA: No.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Okay. All right.
What about your security staff? For instance, we keep talking
about fire. And I want to keep reminding people about the Chicago incident,
where the people were trampled, not because of fire, but because of panic.
What kind of training does security people have that, in quelling fights and
things like that, that would prevent something like this from happening?
MR. SANTANA: As far as -- first of all, we do search, and thereís
no pepper spray on premise, not even by a head of security. So thereís no
weapons whatsoever on the premise, period.
As far as training, most of them have worked in prior club
situations, but we always go the extra mile. We have training meetings every
Thursday night, which will be tonight. And tonight we have a special one, with
the Asbury Park Fire Department coming in and speaking on different
evacuation situations and everything. So weíve brought in special martial
artists, as far as for pressure points, in case if you canít subdue someone or
someone is really violent, and how to wrestle them before you call the
authorities, to have, then, the police department, then, take over. So weíve gone
through different points as far as security.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you.
One question from the Assemblywoman.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Mr. Santana, I want to
commend you, because youíre taking this very seriously, as every owner should
On the inspections, how often do you get the inspections? Youíve
been in business for 20-something years. Are your clubs within the same city or
do you have them in different places?
MR. SANTANA: Different cities.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Okay. And both cities, who
does the inspection and how often do they come?
MR. SANTANA: Itís once a year. Usually, itís once a year.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: You donít see them before
MR. SANTANA: No. But now weíre getting, periodically, spot
checks nightly at The Stone Pony, which we feel very comfortable with that. I
donít have a problem with that whatsoever.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: In the yearly inspection, you
donít get notified ahead of time when theyíre coming.
MR. SANTANA: No.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: They will show up, and they
will do the inspection?
MR. SANTANA: Yes.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: So prior to this incident,
you only have the inspector walking into your places once a year?
MR. SANTANA: Correct.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Okay.
Thank you so much.
MR. SANTANA: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: And thank you for your
MR. SANTANA: Yes.
And, Chairman, Iíd like to tell you personally, and I took that
position the day that the tragedy happened when I saw the act say, on TV, that
the club knew about it, and they were responsible. Thatís why I turned around
and I said, "How dare you?" Because we didnít know about it, and you put us
at harmís way, and we would have been responsible. As far as where -- I felt
that I could have, maybe, prevented that by making a call. And, yes, we have
gotten, from different club owners, as far as maybe documenting on one master
Web site, to document what fans -- to be able to say, "Hey, heads up on this."
These guys got drunk. They started throwing bottles off the stage. Before I
opened up The Stone Pony, I never knew what a mosh pit was. Have you ever
seen the mosh pit? Very dangerous.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: I wouldnít admit it, anyway.
MR. SANTANA: Well, there are certain things that-- Theyíll --
body surfing, and go grab your sprinkler systems, and hang from your sprinkler
system. Right now, weíve put Vaseline on all of our sprinkler systems so they
could slip off, but--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: I wondered why I fell. (laughter)
The Assemblywoman has one more question.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Mr. Santana, I didnít give
you an opportunity to answer the question. Who conducts the inspection in
your establishment? Is it the DCA, the department, or is it the local people, the
municipality, who is responsible for the inspections?
MR. SANTANA: Now, currently, weíve had everything. Weíve
had -- from the Attorney Generalís office, the State agency. Because of the
circumstance, weíve had more than our fair call of spot checks. So it varies.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Before?
MR. SANTANA: Before, no. It was usually one department, local
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Thanks.
MR. SANTANA: No problem.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much.
MR. SANTANA: Thanks. Thank you.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Mr. Tom Millar.
I want to thank you very much by the way, Mr. Santana, for
coming here. I read about -- and I really appreciate your coming forward as you
did. Thank you.
T H O M A S M I L L A R: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name
is Thomas Millar, West Windsor Township Construction Official.
Everything that I was going to say has already been said. But Iím
not sure if this Committee understands what the inspection process is. Maybe
itís worthwhile telling you. Iím the construction official, and I am in charge of
the Construction Department to make sure that all buildings are built in
accordance with the laws.
Once a Certificate of Occupancy has been issued, we are out of the
picture. We no longer go to these buildings. But the uniform fire code kicks in
at that point, and they do their inspections. In a place like a nightclub, I believe
itís four times a year. Itís done quarterly.
This Committee seems to be looking for an assurance of, what
happened in Rhode Island and in Chicago will not happen in New Jersey.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: As best we can. Thatís right.
MR. MILLAR: Yes. If youíre only doing the inspections four times
a year, it seems that four times a year they will be safe. The rest of the time they
may not be safe. I have had occasion to issue a Certificate of Occupancy for a
building and had occasion to go back the next day for some matter, and the fire
doors and the stair towers were wedged open. So we do our best, but thatís not
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: The reason for this hearing, of course,
is exactly that. We did not want to wait until we had a tragedy here. And the
reason for this hearing is to bring people like you with suggestions and
recommendations where we might be able to ensure, as much as possible, the
prevention of a similar kind of situation.
Youíre the experts, and your opinion is that once youíre finished
with it, itís turned over to -- what -- the uniform fire code inspections, etc. And
if itís once a year or four times a year, youíre saying that weíre only sure if --
those four times a year that they may be safe. What weíre going to, hopefully,
come out of this hearing is to review what we have in place and take the kinds
of suggestions that people make on how we might be able to improve that.
Youíve heard me, also, make -- several times reiterate that weíre not
looking simply at fire violations or fire codes, but weíre looking at other ways
to protect people from panic situations. I think youíve heard me say that. And,
of course, some of the things that are coming out of this are, one -- is a
suggestion that Assemblyman Cryan raised. And that is, would you expect us
or do you think we should announce periodically throughout the night where the
exits are, etc., etc, etc.? Thatís an idea that doesnít require legislation, but
certainly there might be an association that these owners belong to where they
could, kind of, pick up on this stuff and suggest to each other through, as Mr.
Santana said, some kind of Web page or whatever, where they can inform each
other of these things.
But the reason for this, of course, is to find out from people like
you and others what are some of the suggestions that we might make to try to
ensure that we can save peopleís lives here.
MR. MILLAR: Other than having an inspector there at every event,
I donít see any way to do it.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Well, I think youíre kind of
downplaying the integrity of the owners. For instance, what we heard, also here,
is that there were 59 inspections over the last weekend, and 40 of them were
fine. So I think what we have, and I think that we should keep in mind, is that
we do have people in the business who are receptive to those kinds of ideas. I
donít think that-- I would certainly hope that people are not as you, perhaps,
are describing -- that the only times that they are going to be safe, and the
owners are going to make sure that we have safety, is when thereís inspections
There are people who are honorable people in this business. We
have one here as a matter of fact. Mr. Cryan is a very honorable man.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Thatís right. (laughter)
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Oh, he wouldnít say
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Is that on the record? Do we have that
on the record? Okay. (laughter)
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Even though his place was severely
overcrowded on St. Patrickís Day, and will be again--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: God willing. (laughter)
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: --he is one of the honorable owners.
But there are people, Iím sure, who are as concerned, as Mr. Santana expressed,
concerned about the safety of people and will not need to be monitored on a
365-day-a-year-- Itís my hope that weíll be--
MR. MILLAR: Thereís no question. I agree with you.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Right.
Are you accompanying Mr. Millar, or are you-- Could you identify
M I C H A E L F. C E R R A: Iím Mike Cerra. On behalf of the League of
Municipalities, I brought Mr. Millar in to represent the League and the Building
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Very well, thank you.
Does anyone have any questions for Mr. Millar? (no response)
Thank you very much for coming.
MR. MILLAR: Thank you.
MR. CERRA: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Mr. Joe Ardere, I believe. Please
identify yourself and pronounce your name correctly for those of us who canít.
J O S E P H A R D E R E: My name is Joseph Ardere. Itís close enough.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Okay.
MR. ARDERE: Iím Joe Ardere. Iím past president of the New
Jersey Licensed Beverage Association. And also, I was Chairman of the New
Jersey Licensed Beverage Fire Code Committee, during the time when most of
the rules and regulations for the nightclubs were written. I believe Mr. Connolly
was the director, or was the head of that, at DCA.
I have a small establishment, and I am an entertainer. I have
entertainment in my place. I can tell you that New Jersey has one of the most
stringent fire codes in the nation. We are inspected regularly. Fire inspectors are
well-trained. All doors must open out. All exit signs must be lighted and have
a battery backup in case of an electrical failure. There must be battery backup
emergency lighting that must stay on for two hours. And as far as the New
Jersey Licensed Beverage Association is concerned, the New Jersey Uniform Fire
Code is strong and is being enforced fairly.
Thatís our position. And I want to thank Mr. Connolly, because
he was very instrumental in getting the nightclub category raised to 300
occupancy. And as you know, Mr. Connolly, at the time, we were in
discussions. They wanted to put sprinklers in every establishment that had
entertainment three nights a year and an occupancy of more than 49. Now, that
was so far off the wall that we had places that had an occupancy of 75 people
that put a sprinkler system in that cost $35,000. And in some cases, the
sprinkler systems were just impossible to do. So we were very fortunate that we
were able to raise that to 300, plus you have to have enough doors, exits, or--
The main thing is exits.
The problem in Chicago -- you had 2,000 people on the second
floor with one exit down a flight of stairs. That should have never been allowed
to happen. The thing in Rhode Island happened because it was negligence on
everybodyís part. I recall that in the research that I did, and I was chairman for
five years, that there has never been one person die in a nightclub fire in the
State of New Jersey, in the history of the State of New Jersey. There was an
illegal place, I believe, in Elizabeth. It was an unlicensed club that was on the
second floor. You recall that. And we got a lot of heat about that, said, "You
guys--" Wait a minute. Weíre licensed. Weíre the most heavily licensed and
policed industry in the country.
So, anyhow, I just would like to say that I think the New Jersey Fire
Code Act is fine, and I donít have any problems with it.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Before we get to you--
MR. ARDERE: Yes. This is Barbara McConnell. Sheís our
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Yes.
You say that youíre pleased that weíre able to raise the level to,
what is it, 300 capacity for fire sprinklers?
MR. ARDERE: Right. With--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Has there ever been a fire in a place
with less than 300 people, that may have died? I mean, have we ever had a--
MR. ARDERE: I donít know of anybody that every died in a
nightclub fire in the State of New Jersey.
MR. CONNOLLY: (speaking from audience) They wonít, if it
complies with all of the other permits.
MR. ARDERE: Right. The 300 occupancy is not just the only
requirement. You have to have the proper exits to accommodate the people
getting out of the buildings. And as far as sprinklers are concerned, if fire starts
and people canít get out of the buildings before the sprinklers come on, and--
Sprinklers save buildings, you know. And now you get multiple floors, high-rise
buildings and places like that, sprinklers are absolutely a requirement. But a
single floor where the exits are within 35 or 40 feet of everybody, sprinklers are
not necessary. That was one of the things that they took into consideration.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: You say one of the requirements is that
all doors have to open out.
MR. ARDERE: Absolutely. And unlocked.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Have you ever heard of any places that
-- where the doors open in?
MR. ARDERE: Nothing. Not since they passed that law, because
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Iíve been to places that -- there are
bars, etc., clubs where the doors open in.
MR. ARDERE: Well, somebody is not doing their job.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thatís why Iíve asked several times
MR. ARDERE: Now, it may be the occupancy. Now, if the
occupancy is under 49, the doors donít have to open. Right?
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Is that right?
MR. ARDERE: Now I havenít looked at my Fire Code book lately,
but itís only about that thick. (indicating thickness) Section 518-,2:c -- you
need to be a New York lawyer to figure the things out.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thatís why Iíve asked from time to
time whether or not anybody has ever heard of any instance, wherever, an
inspector has come and looked the other way. I mean, because I have from
time to time gone into places -- what -- maybe they were a new use or something
like that, where the doors donít open out the way they should.
MR. ARDERE: Well, when I first bought my place, Mr. Chairman,
all the doors opened in. And when they passed the law, thatís the first thing I
did. I have all the doors open out, and panic bars. And not only panic bars,
but-- You really donít have to have a panic bar if you donít have a lock on the
door. So, if the door canít be locked from the outside, and you could push it
out, you donít even need a panic bar. But itís the same principle, same
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you.
You do, Iím sure, understand the reason for this hearing today.
MR. ARDERE: Oh, absolutely.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: So we can be -- prevent this. You said
we have a history of not having any problems, so we want to keep it that way.
MR. ARDERE: Right. And thatís a tribute to the Fire Bureau.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: I want to make sure that we donít slip
up a little bit. Just as the owner of The Stone Pony said, people did come in.
They had fireworks in his place. He didnít know anything about it, etc., etc.,
etc. One instance like that can cost us lives. And I know what weíre doing here
today is to try to prevent that.
MR. ARDERE: No question.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Let me ask Ms. Barbara McConnell,
now, if you would identify yourself, also.
B A R B A R A M c C O N N E L L: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of
the Committee. I am Barbara McConnell, the legislative agent for the New
Jersey Licensed Beverage Association. We represent about 6,000 licensees, some
of which are nightclubs, and many of which are restaurants that are, also,
I want to praise you and this Committee for holding this hearing.
Because although I feel, as Mr. Ardere has said, that New Jersey has got very
strong fire codes, enforcement is good, our inspectors are well-trained-- But as
Mr. Santana said, it could have been him. It could have been us. And so, we
really welcome the opportunity to come and share with you our views.
It is our belief that throughout our membership, the 6,000 licensees,
that they are doing their best to comply. Many of them are very small
businesses -- to comply, certainly with the fire code -- and we welcome that. I
think what we, as owners, can do and what our members are perfectly willing
to do -- and I also was very impressed with Commissioner Levinís testimony,
because it appears to me that the division, including Mr. Connolly and other
officials, are being very proactive and logical in this. They have done a
tremendous job in really reviewing what is going on out there, and doing spot
checks of 1,500 nightclubs over this past weekend, and finding only just a few
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Fifty-nine.
MS. McCONNELL: Well, they did 59, but I believe their target
is to do the 1,500 at some point.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Fifteen hundred. Yes, right.
MS. McCONNELL: And Iím just real confident that a very few
violations are going to be found, and they will be minor. And I think thatís a
credit to the State and certainly to the Division of Community Affairs.
But I think there are things that we, as owners, can do -- Iím not an
owner -- but our owners can do, and I believe theyíre doing that. When the fire
in Rhode Island broke out, I donít think there is a license holder in this State
that didnít shiver and think, "I need to take another look at what weíre doing,
because it could happen to us." And one of them is to do self-inspection
yourself, periodically, to make sure that youíre comfortable and confident with
your compliance. Make sure your employees are trained. Make sure that your
exit signs are visible and that your customers know where those exit signs are.
Donít violate seating capacity or standing capacity, and make sure you know
what your entertainment contracts are going to do and say, as Mr. Santana.
I believe that our Association members try diligently to follow those
self-imposed rules, and we certainly want to cooperate with the Department of
Community Affairs on any of their deliberations regarding this, and certainly
with your Committee, Mr. Chairman.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much.
Are there questions?
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Just one. What did you think of the
idea of announcing -- to either one, Barbara or Joe?
MR. ARDERE: I donít have any problem with that. Although my
particular establishment is so small--
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Well, that wouldnít matter.
MR. ARDERE: --that they know where -- you could see it. In my
place, I donít think anybody is more than 35 feet, 40 feet from an exit. But in
a big venue -- thereís where the catastrophes can happen, is in the big venues,
where they got 300, 400, 500 people. I think they should announce where the
exits are, and like you said, that would be something we could do on our own.
We donít need legislation to do that. Be a suggestion that we could suggest to
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Weíd appreciate that. I just want to
say thanks and reiterate, again, that this situation in Rhode Island was clearly
fire violations and that licensed establishments in the State of New Jersey donít
have a history of problems here. We should reiterate that in the points that we
MR. ARDERE: Well, I guess it was in í86 or so, when they had the
problem at Great Adventure.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Right.
MR. ARDERE: Now, that was neglect there. They never should
have allowed those-- They were containers, so to speak, to connect one to
another. That was a fire trap. Apparently, somebody got penalized on that.
Great Adventure certainly did; they paid.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Yes.
Ms. McConnell, your association, do you represent all 6,000
establishments that have liquor licenses, I suppose?
MS. McCONNELL: Thatís correct.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Is there some way your owners can
have a -- oh, I donít know -- network to inform them? For instance, now, a
couple of times Iíve asked about security -- training for security people, etc., etc.
Again, I go back to the panic, the stampede in Chicago. A lot of the discos that
we have here, I suppose you represent them, as well, if they serve liquor, I
MS. McCONNELL: Could, yes.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: It would seem to me that there might
be some kind of uniform training as a result of what happened out there, or
what have you, that maybe your association -- because Iíve been trying to find
what kind of an association does represent, across the board, these owners of
places like this.
MS. McCONNELL: Right.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: It might be helpful if, in fact, some
kind of uniform training or how to do things-- I see the Commissioner has put
out some doís and doníts. But something like that, that can get out to all of the
owners to -- how to handle situations such as this, would be really very, very
helpful. The Commissioner also said something about, the inspections may not
necessarily be uniform in all the municipalities. I think they should be. I think
that there should be more uniformity with the inspections that go on. And so,
it would be helpful if your association, somehow, could help to get the word
across, to all of the members, of some of the doís and doníts -- even what was
put out today by the Commissioner would be very helpful.
MS. McCONNELL: We certainly will. And I thought, again, that
was a good idea for the department to put out those doís and doníts, and itís
something that this association would be very happy to disseminate among our
membership. But also, I think, as an association, we also have the ability to
continue to raise the consciousness among our members about the need to be
self-vigilant, as I pointed out in some of my comments, to be self-regulated.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Sure.
MS. McCONNELL: And certainly to work with the department on
any proactive ideas that we can do.
MR. ARDERE: Mr. Chairman, I donít know whether youíre aware
of this, but we are issued a hazardous use certificate. And unless our premises
pass the inspections, they will not issue us a hazardous use inspection
certificate, which costs me about $400 a year. And that doesnít include the
price of inspection. My inspections are done by my local municipality.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Right.
MR. ARDERE: The towns that donít have fire officials, then the
State does those inspections.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Right.
MR. ARDERE: But unless you pass the tests, you donít get your
hazardous use-- If you donít get your hazardous use certificate, you donít get
your liquor license renewed.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Mr. Cryan.
MR. ARDERE: So, I mean, we have some checks and balances out
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Iím having a mind blank here.
Who prints that journal every month?
MS. McCONNELL: We did.
MR. ARDERE: We did.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: You do.
MR. ARDERE:Over the Bar Report.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: So we can put the prices and all that
stuff, we can put the doís and doníts in there. Can we just do that?
MR. ARDERE: Sure, we could do that, definitely.
MS. McCONNELL: Sure.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Kind of a fundamental thing. And that
touches every license holder.
MR. ARDERE: Right. We could do that. We send a monthly
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: I think, on behalf of the Committee,
that would be something that would be greatly appreciated.
MS. McCONNELL: Definitely.
MR. ARDERE: We can do that. Weíll send you a copy.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: You get it anyway.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Thank you.
MR. ARDERE: Oh, yes. Well, he gets a copy.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Letís see, the Licensed Beverage
Association and the New Jersey Restaurant Association, do you cover the same
organizations, the same--
MS. McCONNELL: Basically, the Restaurant Association,
Deborah Dowdell is here, and Iím sure she--
MR. ARDERE: No, she left.
MS. McCONNELL: No, she had to leave. But the Restaurant
Association might also represent nonlicensees, for instance. The New Jersey
Licensed Beverage Association was the old Tavern Association. So traditionally,
our membership consisted of small bars and taverns throughout the State.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: It sounds so much better.
MS. McCONNELL: I know. But now we do have larger
restaurants. We do have entertainment venues. Some nightclubs are our
members. Both the Restaurant Association and the Licensed Beverage
Association -- there are some overlapping memberships. I think licensees are
eligible for membership in both of those organizations. But we tend to represent
more the bars and taverns.
MR. ARDERE: And licensees.
MS. McCONNELL: And licensees.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you. Thank you very much.
For the record, I would just mention that Ms. Deborah Dowdell,
the Executive Vice President of the New Jersey Restaurant Association, was here,
and she left a statement for this hearing.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
MR. ARDERE: Thank you.
MS. McCONNELL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Discotheques? Did I hear you say
discotheques? Did I hear you say discos?
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Well, whatever.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: They havenít been discos since the
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Well, whatís the names of those things.
Well, whatever. In my day, they were-- Oh, what the heck.
Rich Buck, please, the Mercer County Improvement Authority.
R I C H A R D B U C K: My name is Richard Buck, and Iím Deputy
Executive Director with the Mercer County Improvement Authority. We
oversee the operation of the Sovereign Bank Arena. I canít get you tickets to
Bruce Springsteen, but I can get you tickets for Big Bird and Elmo next month.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Iíd take that. (laughter)
MR. BUCK: See me after.
This is Patrick Cane. Heís my Chief of Enforcement. Heís actually
the director in charge of implementing our plans. I know that the Chairman has
spoken about not just fire, but how do we respond to crowd control and
incidents such as that.
What Iíve passed out to you is the Emergency Response Plan that
we put together with the Trenton Police force, Sovereign Bank Arena staff, and
the Trenton Fire Department. That will outline for you how weíve interpreted
some of the local regulations, and some of the goals we seek to achieve in
responding to an emergency.
There are a couple of areas -- again, a lot of things have already
been said by the professionals from the Meadowlands Association -- but I think
key is-- Letís talk about what we do. Key, internally, with the Sovereign Bank
Arena staff themselves, they are trained. They all get a copy of the plan that
you see in front of you. Every new employee is briefed on this plan.
As a matter of fact -- Patrick can talk about it at length, if you wish.
This January, before these incidents occurred, our arena management team met
with the Trenton Police and Fire Company. And we are going to be doing
regular drills with the arena staff so that they can direct crowds. As was
mentioned earlier by the Meadowlands staff, is that, when people come in, they
generally come in the same exits. And so, during an event, they tend to
stampede all in that one direction. And so, one of the things thatís going to be
addressed in some of the staff training is how to get people out in other exits.
The other thing is that, because we do over 160 events a year at the
arena, the Police and the Fire Chiefs know and are familiar with all of our staff
people, so, not only do they know each other personally, but theyíre very aware
of the building. They know where the exits are, and during an event, before an
event happens, they do an inspection of the arena and go over any issues that
look suspicious with arena staff.
Again, the details of what happens during each type of an
emergency, and what preparations are made, and what staffing levels are
required at each event have been laid out for the Committee, in that plan. Iíll
be happy to take any questions on that.
All full-time event staff are certified in CPR and first aid. The arena
bears the expense of sending all event staff to national conferences on security
and crowd control issues. Anything that they learn there they review with the
city of Trenton Police and Fire Department, and implement any new best
practices. Also, post 9/11, there were a host of security changes made. One of
the most significant is that we installed a $150,000 video security system that
monitors every entranceway, and outdoors and the parking area as well, that we
monitor for suspicious activity. All of event staff and police are able to
communicate on the same radio frequency, so that staff can contact either fire
officials or police, who are both inside the facility or outside the facility. So, if
an incident starts to get beyond control, they can contact the police directly at
We had opportunity, during last Earth Day -- there was a bomb
threat where we had a significant size event at the arena, and this plan was
executed, Iím happy to say, without incident or injury.
So we look forward to working with the Committee and looking to
implement any new suggestions that come out of here. But we have been pretty
proactive in working, again, with the city of Trenton Police and Fire, who we
have very good relationships with, and even going beyond some of what the
A couple of recommendations: Again, we have the resources at the
arena to be able to train staff on a fairly regular basis and do those drills. And
Iím aware that with some of the local supporting clubs, like the Conduit or the
Urban Word -- may not have those resources, one and two, because, generally,
in those types of businesses you tend to have high staff turnover. You probably
need to make more capital investments as opposed to staff training, but that
would be one recommendation.
And Iím wondering if the Committee would consider maybe going
the other way. The Commissioner spoke about highlighting the fact that you
have satisfactorily implemented best practices, but, maybe, on some certain
serious violations you post something prominent at their entranceway. Because
thatís going to prevent people from coming in the facility and hitting them in the
wallet. But, again, that would be something--
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Sure. Like Meganís Law. Put it on TV.
MR. BUCK: --and the DCA would have to determine. It wouldnít
be a minor violation, but serious violations, so that the patrons are aware.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Well, thatís an idea. And if they have
serious violations, they should be closed down. That inspector who finds these
violations, if theyíre serious enough, should close them down until the place is--
MR. BUCK: Right.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: --until theyíre corrected. And that way,
they wonít be getting in there to begin with.
MR. BUCK: Right.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Again, it takes me back to this business
about whether or not these inspections are as thorough, in all cases, as they
should be, or whether or not there are some places where they slip through the
MR. BUCK: The other thing that we do, depending on the type of
issue: If there are pyrotechnics, we have a licensed pyrotechnic technician there.
The staff are trained in use of fire hydrants, and the fire inspectors, also, on site
during the show. Again, if an event where there might be an injury, we have
additional EMT staff as well. If we think that there might be a rowdier crowd,
we do bring in a private security form (sic) that supplements the significant
amount of trained police officers that we already have on site.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Security force.
MR. BUCK: Yes. Private security force that supplements the
staffing that we pay for, to the city of Trenton, for police protection.
Thatís all I have for the Committee. Iíll take any questions.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Just a quick one. Did you
provide the Fire Department and the Police Department, like, a schedule of
events ahead of time?
MR. BUCK: I believe they get a weekly schedule events package.
P A T R I C K C A N E: A weekly schedule, and actually speak pretty much
on a daily basis about codes and up-and-coming events and any changes. Both
the sheriffís department, Trenton PD and Fire Department are all, on a daily
basis, discussing about the events.
MR. BUCK: Itís almost like theyíre on our part-time staff, anyway.
But thereís a very good relationship between the Sovereign Bank Arena staff and
the local law enforcement officials. And again, weíre only a stoneís throw away,
so I invite you all to come out. We do have a Mid-Atlantic Conference
Basketball tournament going on for the next few days. So come on out.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Whatís going on tonight after this
MR. BUCK: We have, again, basketball, the Mid-Atlantic
Conference. We think itís only three bucks a beer at Sovereign Bank. So a little
cheaper than the Meadowlands.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much.
The representatives are here, still -- someone from DCA, and I think
there are some recommendations that are coming out and will be in our printed
testimony -- that some of the suggestions that are being made here, some are --
seem to be very logical and elementary that we could, kind of, adopt. One
being, to share this information throughout the industry. You mentioned CPR
and first aid training, etc., for people. Iím sure thatís very important and thatís
something that, perhaps, should be done. Security and crowd control training,
etc., those are very important things, I think. And possibly, it probably is
different from each venue -- not, probably. There can be some kind of uniform
suggestions or recommendations that would be very helpful throughout this
Thank you for your testimony.
MR. BUCK: Thank you very much.
MR. CANE: Thank you.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Dominick Zarrillo.
M A T T H E W S. H A L P I N, ESQ.: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My name is Matt Halpin. Iím with Hodes Shaw Bodman Gluck.
Iím joined by Dominick Zarrillo, who is from Loews Cineplex Theaters, who
offers some testimony this morning, or I should say this afternoon, on behalf of
the New Jersey Chapter of the National Association of Theater Owners, to offer
a perspective on that.
We thank you for inviting us here today. And just to assure you
and the members of the Committee: As this becomes an ongoing discussion,
weíd be more than happy to serve as a resource for all of you.
At this point, Iíll turn it over to Dominick for some remarks.
D O M I N I C K Z A R R I L L O: Thank you, Matt.
Again, my name is Dominick Zarrillo. Iím a Regional Director
representing Loews Theaters, NATO -- National Association of Theater Owners
-- that are out in Las Vegas. So Iím going to do the best I can here. I was asked
yesterday at 5:00 to come out and give you guys some suggestions on what we
do at Loews Theaters. And more specifically, two things, two things that we do-
- Let me first preface this by saying that the biggest thing we need to do with
our theaters is staff and management training and development. We need to
make sure theyíre aware for our guestsí safety. And thereís two things that we
do. We have bimonthly staff meetings that go over several different issues in the
theaters -- safety, or whatever. But more specifically, at the end, we conduct fire
drills for the staff.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: How often is this?
MR. ZARRILLO: This is bimonthly, usually the third or fourth
Saturday every other month, in the auditoriums.
Weíve also had occasions to bring in the local fire department,
inspector, supervisor, that would come and address the staffs. Actually, we
havenít done that lately -- but in sitting here and listening to all these
suggestions, in light of everything that happened, Iím going to recommend that
we go back and maybe talk to the managers of the facilities and see if, at one of
the next meetings, if we can get somebody from the local fire departments to
come in and actually address the staff. Because the managers -- we can sit there
and talk to them, but weíre not as trained as somebody out there in the fire
department. So weíre going to do that.
We have a Safety and Security Department, as well, in the
corporate office, that issue monthly security posters that we put in the employee
training and/or break rooms. We put them in frames, and we keep the yearly
poster up. Each month that we get one, we keep the whole year up. And as the
new year comes out, January, we put the new January poster up and take the old
one down. So thereís always a set of 12 posters up, and they highlight anything
from hazardous conditions in the parking lot to conditions in the theater,
whether itís the aisle lights that need to be kept lit, exit signs, wet floor signs in
the theaters. So each month thereís something thatís highlighted -- security and
safety related in the auditorium -- that we keep posted.
We also have smoke detectors, routine fire inspections once a year,
sprinkler system tests, fire alarm panel tests. Crowd control is a big thing in the
theaters. The staff is trained, typically, to supervise. Down our corridors, we
have stanchions or ropes that we only keep up in times of high-volume movies
that come out. We keep people lined up in a certain area. Once the crowd is
let in, we take the poles down, and we just put them up in times that theyíre
We used to -- Iím not sure if we do at all locations now -- I think
itís mandated by different municipalities, but exit trailers used to be run before
the movies started, where we would give the guests a perspective on, "Exits are
located in the front and the rear." As somebody was stating earlier, most people
come in the same way -- or leave the same way they come in. So, we, at least,
highlight where the exits are. We make sure we keep them well lit. Thatís a
recommendation Iím going to bring back to our corporate office and maybe say,
letís be more proactive. Maybe we donít have to just do it selectively. Maybe
we should just do it.
Thatís pretty much-- Those are the suggestions that I wanted to
bring up. Iíd be more than happy to answer any questions. If not, I can get the
answer and get back to you.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Mr. Cryan.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Exit trailers and the prevention. How
are they produced?
MR. ZARRILLO: We have -- itís a company called Cinema
Concepts. Itís a separate company. They can make anything from gift
certificate advertisements to exit trailers to movie trailers. Theyíre usually a 30-
second spot, and theyíre just attached to the front of the movie.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: And is it a policy of Loews to have
MR. ZARRILLO: I donít think, right now, itís a specific policy.
Like I said, I think itís mandated in certain townships, by the fire departments,
that we have to run the exit trailers. Iím in charge of 13 locations, and I think,
right now, we may only have one location thatís required to run them.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Thatís something, without speaking for
everybody, that you generally feel might be--
MR. ZARRILLO: I think that would be something, as speaking
proactively and addressing-- We donít have intermissions in the movies. So
you press the start button, and it runs for two, two-and-a-half hours. The most
you can do is make an announcement at the beginning of the movie. Itís not
feasible, really, to stop the movie. Weíd get things thrown at us. But at the
beginning of the movie, whether itís an announcement, personally or on screen,
itís something that we can definitely look at.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Do you mind me asking if you have
any idea of the cost of something like that?
MR. ZARRILLO: The trailers -- theyíre not very expensive. I would
say each trailer produced would probably be $30 to $40. And if you have 10
screens, youíre talking about $300, $400.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: The actual--
MR. ZARRILLO: Itís a 30-second spot. It comes on 35 millimeter
film. And each, to get produced, is probably around $40. And if you wanted
to put that on every screen, youíre talking $40 per screen.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: But, I guess what I want -- there are
some situations that seem like these trailers would be applicable. Like, suppose
tomorrow we passed a law that said every movie theater should have a trailer.
What financial burden would we--
MR. ZARRILLO: Minimal.
ASSEMBLYMAN CRYAN: Minimal. Okay.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much.
You say you donít have intermissions in the movies, etc., etc.,
unless itís one of those three- or four-hour ones.
MR. ZARRILLO: We have one out now --Gods and Generals --
thatís four hours, and there is a 15-minute break.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Yes, I havenít seen it. Iíve been missing
so many of these movies. I havenít seen any in a long time.
But anyway, these subliminal kinds of messages-- I know that
thereís, sometimes -- you can flash almost imperceptive kinds of messages, that
people are prone to go out to buy popcorn, etc., for instance. I mean, movies
have used these kinds of things to get people to go-- All of a sudden theyíre
walking out wondering why theyíre going, because thereís something thatís been
flashing there. They could probably do something like that as well. Maybe it
might be some kind of subliminal message flashing where the exits are, as well.
I donít know. Maybe thatís something that works for these people coming out
with cartons of popcorn. They canít even finish them; these buckets of popcorn.
MR. ZARRILLO: Right.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Anyway, I guess thatís what--
MR. ZARRILLO: Keeps the extras in business. (laughter)
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: My son is an extra.
Well, I thank you.
Does anyone have any--
Yes, Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Yes. Youíd be happy to
hear that I am one of the best patrons that you have. I have teenagers, and I go
to the movies almost every week.
MR. ZARRILLO: All right.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: My son, as a matter of fact,
was working during the holidays. It wasnít at the Loews Theater; it was at the
other one. And he did -- never receive any kind of training on evacuation,
training in case of something happened. He did not. He was there just for the
holidays. But it was interesting that you mentioned that you do it. So how
often did you do it, and is it as soon as you hire someone? Because I know
youíre very good at hiring college students, high school students -- which I really
appreciate that -- because you give them an opportunity. But how often did you
provide the training? Because to me, thatís the key. If you have the people who
are working the theater have the proper training, and you mentioned that you
do it-- My son, in the other theater, did not receive any kind of training.
MR. ZARRILLO: Right.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: So you do it as soon as they
get aboard or--
MR. ZARRILLO: Thereís a training tape -- and forgive me, Iím not
sure if itís exactly on fire safety or what -- but we have orientation tapes that
they watch as the employees get hired. There is a security/safety tape that they
watch at the orientation. So thatís even before they sell their first ticket or
popcorn. So there is some type of training. Itís probably two, two-and-a-half
hour training orientation thatís held once a week when we do our hiring. And
then itís reinforced as a fire drill, or so forth, bimonthly -- six times a year.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Okay. So you do have the
MR. ZARRILLO: Oh, yes. At the end of the tape that they watch,
it says, "Please stay put. See your manager for -- weíre going to conduct a fire
drill." We have a fire evacuation plan thatís kept in the managerís office in a
binder. Itís a floor plan of the theater, the exits, where the fire extinguishers are
located. And there are several positions in the theater -- whether itís a ticket
taker, usher, cashier -- and each one of those positions are required or
responsible for a certain function in the event that thereís an emergency
And thatís the other thing. We train the staff, if thereís a fire or
something. We donít want to run into the theater and say thereís a fire. We
just make an announcement that thereís an emergency situation, can you please
exit this way or something. We try to keep the staff calm and cool so they can
reinforce that to the guests that are there. So there are several positions in the
theater, and each one would be responsible for a certain task in the event that
thereís a situation.
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CRUZ-PEREZ: Great.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Thank you very much for your
Have you had any experiences where there have been any kinds of
serious emergencies, fires, etc., in any of the places that you monitor?
MR. ZARRILLO: Back in 1992, in Bricktown -- I donít know if
anybody was familiar with that -- now we have a 10-plex in Brick, 10 screens.
Back in the early í90s, we had two, five-screen complexes and a twin. And one
of the five-plexes did burn, not totally to the ground, just inside. And it was
closed for almost a year.
ASSEMBLYMAN PAYNE: Well, thank you very much for your
testimony, and for all who have testified today.
I think what we found today is that, itís been mentioned that, we
have -- itís very strict regulations in the State of New Jersey, for the protection
of our citizens. I think this hearing has prompted a new look at and a review
of whatís in place, and, also, have underscored some of the few areas that we
need, perhaps, to have some improvement. I truly hope that we have served the
purpose, and that what weíve done today will help to save lives and prevent any
kind of catastrophes that we have seen in other parts of the country.
Hopefully, those who have been here, and others, will share the
information that weíve learned, so that the industry and those who operate in
these businesses will be able to share those kinds of positive recommendations
that were made, and that we will continue to be vigilant in seeing to it that the
citizens of New Jersey are protected, and that entertainment venues will be just
that, will be venues for entertainment and relaxation for the citizens of New
Jersey. And perhaps New Jersey can serve as a paradigm for other states, so that
we can, in fact, have the kinds of leisure time that we all deserve and then have
them in safety.
I would just like to, also, say that weíve learned that the majority
of people in this business are people who are respected and respectable citizens,
who are responsible citizens, and are, also, those who are trying to see to it that,
in addition to having a successful business, will also have a venue or a place that
will be safe for the citizens and for the patrons that they entertain. Iím very
pleased that we are able to, for the benefit of those in that business, to indicate
that they are the majority. The vast majority of people in this business are
respectable and are looking forward to trying to see to it that the citizens of New
Jersey have a decent and better quality of life.
Thank you all for coming. This meeting is adjourned.