The Beverly Hills Fire

Man stands in the debris after the fire
Aftermath: Debris from the 1970 fire. Zoom
1937: The original Beverly Hills nightclub is built by Pete Schmidt on a 17-acre site along the west side of U.S. 27 in Southgate.

1961: After changing hands several times over the years, the club shuts down.

Oct. 11, 1969: The Beverly Hills reopens briefly under the ownership of two Atlanta-based partners.

Dec. 30, 1969: The club, closed shortly after its reopening, is deeded to the Schilling family, who plan to renovate and expand it.

April 1970: The Schillings obtain a building permit for a $170,000 remodeling.

June 21, 1970: A predawn fire destroys much of the unoccupied structure, still under construction. A state arson investigation will prove inconclusive.

Feb. 10, 1971: The new Beverly Hills Supper Club opens to the public.

Feb. 26, 1971: The Enquirer reports that the club reopened ''without remedying 10 major safety defects outlined by the state,'' including flaws involving stairway enclosures and exits. The article says the state did not conduct a final inspection at the site and that the state fire marshal had not approved the club for occupancy. Officials in Kentucky play down the controversy, saying they have been assured all hazards have been corrected.

July 8, 1974: The Schillings apply for a building permit to add a larger showroom.

Aug. 10, 1974: A small fire, apparently caused by a short circuit, breaks out in the club's main electrical control panel. The flames are put out with an extinguisher. An insurance claim puts damage at $1,635.

New Showroom
New showroom: Richard Schilling, Sr. the owner (left) in the Cabaret Room. Zoom
Nov. 11, 1974: The new showroom, the Cabaret Room, opens to the public.

1975: Construction on the Zebra Room, designed to accommodate smaller parties, is completed.

1976: Construction on the Garden Room is completed.

Jan. 27, 1977: A state-ordered fire inspection concludes that ''in case of emergency, evacuation should be no problem with existing exits.''

May 28, 1977: Fire destroys the supper club.

May 29, 1977: The bodies of 26 more victims are removed from the Cabaret Room.

June 1, 1977: Two bodies are discovered in the Viennese Room.

June 2, 1977: A patron, injured in the fire, sues for damages in federal court, the first such suit to be filed. By 1985, the settlement to victims will reach $30 million.

June 25, 1977: Patricia Brown, 40, of Lexington, Ky., dies of injuries suffered in the fire, bringing the death toll to 163. Her husband was among the dead.

July 2, 1977: Clarence Gripshover, 48, of Covington dies of injuries, bringing the death toll to 164. Three couples he had accompanied to the club were among the dead.

July 13, 1977: A report by State Trooper Kenneth Wood said ''all the physical evidence'' pointed to a hidden fire in the Zebra Room and the ''only source'' of ignition would have been electrical.

July 18, 1977: State Police Det. Sgt. James A. Perry reports that some exits had appeared to have been illegally locked.

Sept. 16, 1977: Gov. Julian Carroll's special task force files a report calling the Beverly Hills building ''an electrician's nightmare'' and concludes that ''the only participants in the tragedy who were clearly ignorant of the latent danger hidden behind walls and within concealed spaces were the patron-victim.'' Structural problems, the report said, included substandard wiring, flammable building materials and a shortage of exits. It said that ''many of these code violations were known by the insurer, the operators and owners, and were noted as concerns as a matter of record in the fire marshal's office.'' Other problems it identified included ''gross overcrowding'' and ''myopic'' inspection efforts. The task force found it ''baffling'' how the state fire marshal's staff failed to communicate adequately with the state Insurance Services Office that repeatedly inspected Beverly Hills during the 1970s and reported fire hazards.

Sept. 19, 1977: Gov. Julian Carroll condemns ''a shocking amount of complete and total disregard by the owners of Beverly Hills for the safety of the patrons.'' He predicts indictments.

Feb. 23, 1978: A special grand jury is impaneled to investigate whether crimes were committed in connection with the fire. During the coming months, dozens of witnesses testify and hundreds more written statements are submitted.

March 1, 1978: Barbara Thornhill, 35, of Delhi Township dies at Cincinnati General Hospital, the 165th and final fatality attributed to the fire. The death toll included her husband, his two sisters and his pregnant sister-in-law.

Wayne Memorial
Aug. 2, 1978: The grand jury concludes that neither criminal negligence nor structural problems were responsible for the deaths. The jury report blames the victims' ''panic'' and notes that Cabaret Room patrons, ''even though notified to evacuate, failed to react and remained seated until the conditions of the room itself indicated the need to exit. By this time in some instances it was too late.''

February 1979: A special prosecutor concludes that ''nothing is to be gained from additional efforts to pursue criminal prosecution in connection with the fire.''

1980: Civil suits against the club owners are settled out of court.

Oct. 18, 1986: An appellate court rules that the state fire marshal's office has no liability to victims.

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