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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Local bar and nightclub staff gathered at Rue Bar on Wednesday night for mandatory fire safety training with Gainesville Fire Rescue.

The 52 representatives who completed the program Operation Safe Club received badges certifying them as crowd managers.

GFR will require every bar and nightclub to have at least one crowd manager with a badge present during its night inspections.

Deputy Fire Chief Tim Hayes said the badge will show the person is trained in evacuation plans and 911 calls, making inspections easier.

Nine employees of GFR's Risk Reduction Bureau were at the meeting.

"This is our whole division right here tonight," he said.

"We don't have enough people to come down here every night."

Fire investigator Sandy Ellison said the night inspections are made two to three times a month.

With 49 bars and nightclubs to visit in Gainesville, he said, they end up hitting each one at least twice a year.

Investigators look for blocked exits, overcrowding and burnt-out exit lights, Ellison said.

The training at Rue Bar covered not only fire safety and prevention, but also the damage historical fires had caused to public places. A video of a 2003 nightclub fire in Rhode Island was shown.

"You know where the manager of this club is right now?" Hayes asked the crowd during the video. "He's in jail."

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Jordan Cuffe, a manager at Rue Bar, said he didn't mind the training.

"Most people don't even know the legal capacity of their building," he said.

Detron Colson, a representative of Bar One, said he felt there was no such thing as having too much information.

"That's why we're here," he said. "To learn how to run a safe establishment."

GFR spokeswoman Laura Koppel said fire safety training has always been mandatory, but it has never been offered by the fire department before.

"We're a resource for you guys," Hayes said at the event. "We don't want you to hate to see us coming."

Both Hayes and Koppel said that another training session will be held at a later date.

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