Thursday, April 10, 2003

Club blames fire on contractors, building owners

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

COVINGTON - The operators of the Venus Lounge dance club say the owners of Odd Fellows Hall and the contractors renovating the historic landmark are to blame for a fire at the Odd Fellows Hall that also gutted their club in May.

Brian and Kimberly Lagory and Ruth Everett filed suit Wednesday in Kenton Circuit Court against Odd Fellows II LLC and unknown contractors and subcontractors restoring Odd Fellows Hall in Covington. The sexually oriented business also named its insurance underwriters, Lloyd's of London, as defendants for not paying the full claim on business.

The suit asks for "fair and reasonable" compensatory and punitive damages because they incurred rebuilding costs above that covered by insurance, suffered loss of personal income, loss of potential future personal income, a loss of business income and have incurred mental pain, trauma and anguish.

Attorney Donald Nageleisen, who is representing Venus Lounge, said club owners were to close a deal to sell the building that houses the adult-oriented business as part of the city's redevelopment efforts the day after the Odd Fellows blaze. He said the fire scuttled that deal.

The club is located at 12 East Fifth St., adjacent to the Odd Fellows Hall. The hall - listed on the National Register of Historic Places - was gutted by a spectacular fire as developers were set to begin renovation.

The suit states the electrical fire started in the ceiling of a temporary office at the Odd Fellows Hall, set up the day before the fire. The suit claims the defendants were negligent for not providing the proper fire control systems, procedure or policies that might have prevented the blaze from engulfing the adjoining businesses.

"It was reasonably foreseeable that a fire may occur based upon the condition of the premises and/or structures, the fact the electrical wiring was not up to code, the fact the building did not contain any sprinklers, fire prevention equipment, etc."

Covington attorney Gregory Shumate, who represents the owners of Odd Fellows, learned of the suit when called by a reporter Wednesday afternoon.

"I haven't seen the suit," he said, "but it is my recollection that the fire inspector went in there and didn't pinpoint any fault on my client."

Venus Lounge is rebuilding in the same location. Even though only the brick facade remains, Odd Fellows Hall owners are planning to save the structure.


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