Darrin Morda, who co-owns Rise, says the stanchions and barriers in place outside his club New Year's Eve were there at the request of the Boston Fire Department, which asked for them about two months ago.
It's one of numerous issues Morda has with an official police account of the way the club was shut down at 11:40 p.m. on Dec. 31. Morda said a BPD sergeant, unfamiliar with the private club's status - or a Superior Court injunction that he says bars police from entry except in emergencies - basically shut the place down in a rage.
In an interview with Universal Hub today, Morda said the sergeant showed up, looked askance at the ropes and barriers, and walked into the club. He then went up stairs to the dance floor, and once up front, he yelled "the girls aren't wearing enough clothing" and said he was shutting the club down.
Morda agreed there was a wild scene inside - it was New Year's Eve, after all, and people were jumping up and down and counting down to midnight. But he said there were only 300 people in the club - far from the 800 BPD cited in its blog post, let alone the 942 Morda said the sergeant initially claimed were inside. "Neither one is physically possible," he said.
He said if there really had been 800 people in the club, there was no way the sergeant could have made it up the stairs to the dance floor. He said police originally told fire inspectors they found some 500 just in the club's 1,000-square foot lounge. "I would invite anybody to come into the lounge," and try to fit 500 people into it, he said.
He said that at no point during the initial confrontation did the sergeant ask for the club's permits or plans - he said it was only after 30 officers showed up, the club had been emptied out and the fire department called. "He didn't even know what our capacity was," he said.
Morda, who co-owns Rise with Tom Beaulieu, added there were women wearing minis, but nothing out of the ordinary even for a club in straightlaced Boston. He added police "overturned trash cans" and emptied the staff refrigerator in search of illegal liquor, but found none. He said it was possible some club goers brought in nips, as alleged by police, but that the club has a 12-year record without liquor problems.
Morda said at one point the sergeant went into the dance-floor DJ room and demanded the DJ shut the music "before I smash all your equipment." Morda said the DJ complied, but the sergeant became further enraged when he kept hearing music - from the floor below, which has a separate music system.
Morda said the sergeant never identified himself and that, after the guy had spent considerable time yelling at him, he decided not to ask for his name - let alone threaten his job, as alleged by BPD. "I was afraid that if I asked him one more question, I would have been thrown in jail for the night," he said.
Morda acknowledged the club had decorations hanging from the ceiling, as cited by BPD, but denied they were flammable. He noted that Massachusetts has some of the toughest regulations in the country on nightclub decorations and that everything the club had up was certified to those regulations. He said the club has a folder of manufacturer's information, which the fire department inspects periodically.
The "exposed wires" cited by the police report? Morda said they were cables running to loudspeakers and computers - the sort of things that are perfectly legal.
He said the fire-safety allegations are particularly painful to him because the club installed sprinklers after the Station nightclub fire even before being required to do so by law.
Because Rise is run as a private club - potential members have to be nominated by existing members - and doesn't serve alcohol, it is not subject to the normal licensing requirements of Boston clubs open to the public, he said. He added the club has always had good relations with both the fire department and ISD, which do have jurisdiction. In 1999, Rise after won an injunction against the city after the last time police shut it down.