ST. GEORGE – If you enter GoGo37 for one of their many concerts, one thing you are bound to see is the giant wall sign that asks people not to dance.
The owners of GoGo37 said they run a concert hall, but do not have a permit for dancing. Dancing by the patrons could cause them to lose their license to hold concerts. (Editor’s Note: The owners of GoGo37 had agreed to further interviews with St. George News but were continuously unavailable or did not return phone calls.)
In multiple Facebook posts, supporters of GoGo37 ask residents to come together to fight the city they say is preventing them from dancing. Technically, dance clubs are allowed in St. George, with a dance permit and with the exception of Sundays.
Marc Mortensen, assistant to the city manager of St. George, said he has heard of the uproar over GoGo37 not being able to get a dance permit but, he said, they haven’t applied for one.
“How can they be so angry with the city and say we are not permitting [them to get dance permit] when they haven’t even submitted an application? They haven’t even taken the time to come in and submit [the application for permit] and speak to the mayor and city council. To say the city won’t allow it is not correct,” Mortensen said.
Mortensen said the difference between having a concert hall and a dance club has to do with the fire code.
“We’re not saying they don’t meet [the qualifications] either. We haven’t even inspected it because they haven’t submitted an application,” he said.
Deputy Chief Kevin Taylor of the St. George Fire Department said that the primary differences between a concert hall and a dance hall are the occupancy density, how many people could fit into the building safely, and whether or not any seating is fixed in place or movable.
According to the 2009 International Fire Code, the occupancy load for a potential dance hall would be determined by the square-footage-per-person area that a fixed seat or non-fixed seat occupies. An individual is considered to take up a space of between five to seven square-feet depending upon the type of seating classification. This figure is also conditional upon whether or not the potential dance hall consists of a large open space, or includes tables and chairs.
After the square-footage-per-person area is calculated, the fire department then looks at specifics; among these are the number of exits available. Once the inspection is complete, the building is assigned a safe occupancy rating. Per IFC guidelines, the occupancy rating is posted for all to see.
“We have the number of people posted in [the building],” Taylor said.
Taylor’s chief concern is how many people may attempt to crowd into one building at one time. Businesses that violate the posted occupancy rating are subject to being shut down and possibly fined.
The IFC is the fire regulation adopted by St. George, either in whole or in part. It is considered the bare minimum when it comes to fire safety standards and is updated every three years. The city uses the 2009 IFC, as does Utah overall. Elements of the code are determined by the International Code Council, an association of building safety professionals and inspectors. The ICC is recognized by the federal government as well as several countries outside of the United States.
Mortensen said there have been other dance clubs in the same building GoGo37 occupies on St. George Boulevard. He also said the police department has been called to the area for alcohol and drug related issues, but that does not affect GoGo37’s ability to get a permit.
Captain James Van Fleet said it would be difficult to get exact numbers of how many incidents officers are called to at GoGo37 because incidents, such as fights or drugs, can be taken into adjoining parking lots and the computer system would not match them to GoGo37, even if the incident started there.
Mortensen said the city is not against dancing or dance clubs.
“I know they’ve tried to play it up like a ‘Footloose’ situation, and that is simply not the case. They need to come in for an application,” he said.
However, the city has a stringent code that has been dubbed the “anti-dance code.” It states there are no public dances to be held on Sundays; and if anyone leaves a dance club, they must repay the full entry fee to re-enter the club. The club may not allow anyone who is intoxicated to enter or remain at the club. The club must employ security personnel over the age of 21, each of whom has never been “convicted of an offense involving alcohol or moral turpitude during the period of such employment or within two years prior to their employment. Persons employed as such security personnel shall either be private security officers licensed by the state or shall be provided by the chief of police.”
While the dance ordinance in St. George is nearly a page long, Cedar City’s dance ordinance reads in one paragraph:
“A public dance hall is any public space open to public patronage in which a public dance is held and for which there is a charge for admission. A license fee for a public dance shall be $100 per year, or any part thereof, in addition to any other license fee charged. No license is required for dances conducted by schools, whether public or private, if admission is generally limited to students and alumni and their guests.”
Even if GoGo37 met all of the above requirements, applied for a business license and passed inspection by the fire chief, it could still be denied by the city council.
St. George News writers Mori Kessler and Dallas Hyland contributed to this article.
Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.