ATLANTIC BEACH The promoter of a party tent club here says he was blindsided by reports Friday that the compound he is operating for this weekend’s bikefest was a fire hazard.
Tony Marcus, who says he has operated similar events at different festivals for 11 years, said he has worked with town officials since last year to make sure his operation was safe, and invited the fire marshal to inspect the premises earlier this week to make certain.
The Paradise Party Compound was open for business Thursday night. Marcus said Atlantic Beach officials gave him the okay to continue operating throughout the weekend.
Horry County Fire Rescue Chief Joseph Tanner said in a memo to a county official Thursday that he had a number of safety concerns about the operation, including a lack of adequate exits.
The dangers listed in a fire code review include limited exits for the 15,000 square foot tent, no presence of fire safety equipment, and smoking permitted inside.
A “fire load” created by some of the interior decorations, outside supplies, and carpeting also presented a trip hazard, the memo said.
Concern was also expressed about surrounding metal fencing, that could limit escape from a fire.
“Any fire would be difficult to control,” Tanner said.
Those concerns were passed on by Chris Eldridge, Horry County administrator, to Atlantic Beach town officials.
“I understand the decision to close the venue rests solely with the Town of Atlantic Beach,” Eldridge said. “Even so, I feel that you, as the responsible party, should know how concerned the leadership of Horry County Fire and Rescue and myself are that this venue may be used this upcoming weekend in its current unsafe condition. I believe it is your responsibility to keep visitors to your town safe.”
Marcus said the inspection occurred Tuesday before construction was completed, and that he corrected the concerns expressed by the inspector.
No smoking is allowed, the tent is stocked with fire safety equipment including extinguishers, and there are three exits.
Marcus said he was proactive in making sure the club was safe, putting up metal detectors, hiring private security, and inviting the fire chief to do an inspection earlier this week.
He said the tents are the same structures used at the County Music Festival, and that he felt the Atlantic Beach venue had been unfairly targeted.
“It’s definitely a hassle,” Marcus said.
“What’s amazing about the whole thing, is that we started planning in June 2016 to take every measure possible to make it safe, and I completely reached out to the fire inspector days before we even opened,” Marcus said.