Fires in History: Beverly Hills Supper Club
The sparks of aluminum wiring in the walls could have been smoldering for hours by the time the smoke lingered along the ceiling line. It only took the introduction of some oxygen into the room to create a ball of fire shooting through the large entertainment venue, killing 165 people.
It was a packed house at the Beverly Hills Supper Club on May 28, 1977 in Soulgate, KY. A wedding was going on in the Zebra rooms, the bars were full, and the Cabaret Room was past full capacity for all those waiting to see Jim Teter and Jim McDonald. There were between 900 and 1,300 people in the Cabaret Room alone and about 3,000 in the entire Beverly Hills Supper Club. According to Kentucky Building Code, only 1,500 patrons should have been in the entire building.
The Beverly Hills Supper Club was a split level with dining rooms, 18 private party rooms, bars, and a cabaret nightclub. The location was maze-like with additions being added without thought of fire code and without a Kentucky licensed architect. There were only 16 exits - and some were hidden in corridors or behind multiple doors - when over 27 were needed for the capacity the club saw that night.
At 8:30pm, family and friends attending a wedding in the Zebra Room complained that it was too hot, and left a half hour earlier than the scheduled time. Around 9pm, two servers entered the room to clear tables. Smoke lingered along the ceiling. Soon after, the receptionist opened the doors because of a smoke smell complaint. Minutes later a flashover took over the property.
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