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Today in Fire History | Beverly Hills Supper Club fire of 1977

The Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate, Kentucky, is the third deadliest nightclub fire in U.S. history. It occurred on the night of May 28, 1977, during the Memorial Day holiday weekend. A total of 165 persons died and over 200 were injured as a result of the blaze. It was the deadliest fire in the United States since 1944, when 168 people were killed in the Hartford circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut.

BeverlyHillsSupperClubFire 307

The investigation into the fire found the following deficiencies, as enumerated by the Cincinnati Enquirer:


Although seating charts recovered from the club after the fire show that the Cabaret Room (the largest facility in the club) normally held between 614 and 756 people, a hostess who had worked at the club for several years estimated occupancy on the date in question to be well over 925.

Inadequate fire exits

Full occupancy of the entire complex was estimated to be roughly 2,750, which under Kentucky law would require 27.5 exits. The club only had 16.5 exits, many of which were not clearly marked or easily reached. Some exits could only be reached by passing through three or more interior doors and corridors. Many victims perished in dead ends after becoming lost.

Faulty wiring

Governor Julian Carroll’s report on the fire called the club’s wiring an “electrician’s nightmare”, and alleged multiple, wide-ranging code violations. Bridgetown electrician H. James Amend, who inspected the fire site at the request of a local attorney Stan Chesley a year and a half later said, “I cannot believe that any of this was ever inspected.”

Lack of firewalls

This allowed the fire to spread, and in addition allowed it to draw oxygen from other areas of the complex.

Poor construction practices

The club had been built piecemeal with inadequate roof support, no common ceiling space, and highly flammable components.

Extreme safety code violations

There was no sprinkler system and no audible automatic fire alarm, and some doors were locked.Poor oversight by regulatory authorities. The local volunteer fire department is said by the Enquirer to have known of the deficiencies, but had not ordered them to be corrected.

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