I-Team: Club owner reacts to missing fire inspections

The owner of a popular Providence nightclub told NBC 10 he has a responsibility to keep his patrons safe.

An I-Team investigation revealed dozens Providence nightclubs and bars are doing business without current fire inspections. The I-Team found many inspection records were either years out of date or simply nowhere to be found. This comes as Rhode Island prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of the Station nightclub fire, the deadliest fire in state history.

The I-Team talked with the owner of a popular Providence club, The Colosseum. The nightclub is usually packed Thursday through Sunday nights and has a capacity of up to 1,100 people. Owner Anthony Santurri said along with the party atmosphere, comes a huge responsibility.

"I want to make sure we have everything done right. I think other club owners feel the same way," he said.

Santurri said he believes he is doing everything right by making sure his club is up to code. That means double-checking things like doors and even treating curtains, couches and pillows in the VIP area with fire retardant. He said he wants to work with the city to make sure clubs like his get full inspections going forward.

"There's a real focus on the public safety, and we all agree with it. We all think it needs to be done," Santurri said.

But while Santurri is keeping his eye on safety, NBC 10 discovered no record of the Providence Fire Department inspecting many clubs for years. Most of the records the I-Team found were from 2005 or earlier, more than seven years ago.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare admitted club and bar inspections are years out of date.

"Although we go in and we sporadically inspect nightclubs, we haven't done a full inspection of nightclubs on a regular basis," Pare said.

Some of the problems found in the old inspection reports are disturbing. Records show eight nightclubs had no fire sprinklers during their last recorded inspection, despite a state law requiring them after The Station fire. But there's no record of anyone going back to follow up.

Do all the clubs have sprinklers today?

"I don't know," Pare said. "We should know. We will know in 2013, because we'll have full inspections on those clubs."

Records obtained by the I-Team show inspectors made surprise visits to several clubs and bars on a regular basis since 2008. But those quick visits happened while businesses were open, usually between midnight and 1 a.m. The state fire marshal told NBC 10 that spot checks don't replace a full annual inspection of each club when the building is empty, as required by Rhode Island law.

"I think the confusing part is, we do what we're told. They're very conscientious. They're here a lot," Santurri said of the Providence Fire Department. "I'm just assuming every time they come in, that's what they're supposed to do."