This sounds familiar.
Image: Maria Kanai

On Aug.30, the new concert venue Republik turned down more than 100 fans trying to get into a Third Eye Blind performance because fire inspectors from the Honolulu Fire Department had discovered standard fire code violations. The club had not completed installation of a fire alarm and a fire sprinkler system, which meant it could only accommodate 299 people. According to Captain Terry Seelig from HFD, there were already about 400 people admitted when the inspectors arrived. Fire inspectors asked the nightclub management to stop admissions until the crowd was under 299. For some, this brought to mind what happened to the old Pipeline Cafe, in which current Republik co-owner Chip Jewett was a partner. Pipeline ultimately closed down because of capacity and fire code violations.

All commercial building owners in Honolulu must work with the Department of Planning and Permitting to determine maximum capacity, which is based on size, usage and location. The building is then subject to fire safety code regulations, which involve everything from the number of exits to the type of door handles. “This is an everyday situation for the entire city,” says Seelig.

For customers, though, it was an unpleasant surprisse. “A lot of people in line were getting frustrated. When the opening act started playing, that’s when the crowd really started to get rowdy,” recalls Mark Matsuoka, who went with his girlfriend and her two brothers. “Everyone wanted to know how they could possibly be ‘at capacity’ when hundreds were in line outside and the venue was almost empty. [I]t got even worse when security tried to close the doors on everyone.” Those who were not allowed inside had to head home with promised ticket refunds. Matsuoka received refunds for tickets, but not for service fees. On a happier note, Third Eye Blind played an impromptu, acoustic concert at Kaimana Beach Park the following day.

Venue and concert promoter BAMP Project’s Monica Ivey (BAMP’s Matty Hazelgrove is a Republik co-owner) had no comment for the Weekly, but according to BAMP’s press release, “We were given documentation that led us to believe that we were operating legitimately within the codes of the law which allowed us the amount of tickets that were sold for Thursday night’s Third Eye Blind performance…Since our grand opening on August 18th we’ve legally operated within the allowed capacity stated in our paperwork.”

The Death Cab for Cutie concert on Aug. 22 was attended by more than 299 people. However, according to Seelig, “We had sent out notices of violation previously [on Aug. 17, following inspections], and they were aware of what needed to be done.”

Happy outcome: Republik has now fulfilled fire safety requirements (although a city Dept. of Planning and Permitting permit application reportedly remains incomplete), HFD inspectors have tested the fire alarm and automatic sprinkler system, and the venue can now admit up to 1,000 people, which it did last Saturday for a concert by Chevelle. Next up: Theory of a Deadman, Fri. Sept. 21. Case shut, deja vu cured.