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Club parties shut down in South Loop, Pilsen for overcrowding, code violations

Updated: March 12, 2013 6:25AM

Overcrowding and code violations prompted Chicago authorities early Sunday to shut down two clubs, including one in the South Loop only a block from the now-shuttered E2 nightclub where 21 people died a decade ago.

Chicago Fire Department inspectors closed down the 22Thirty9 nightclub on South Michigan after finding 144 people inside the venue, which has a maximum capacity of 80.

Barely an hour later, fire inspectors and Chicago police were called to a private club in the 1800 block of South Racine after neighbors complained patrons were throwing bottles and a satellite dish off the roof.

Three cars were damaged by the thrown objects, authorities said.

Fire inspectors closed both sites and issued citations after uncovering potentially dangerous building code violations, said Chicago Deputy Fire Commissioner Richard C. Ford II.

“The bottom line is, safety comes first,” Ford said during a Sunday news conference.

The South Michigan Avenue nightclub was closed because of the overcrowding but also was cited for not having properly located exit signs and because stools or chairs blocked a rear stairwell.

The club is only a block from the E2 nightspot where a disturbance on Feb. 17, 2003, caused patrons to rush for a single exit. In the panic that followed, 21 people were crushed to death.

Fire inspectors on Sunday had to force their way inside the Racine Avenue building after receiving a call about a loud, overcrowded party.

It wasn’t clear how many people were inside the three-story building because many fled when fire inspectors and police arrived, Ford said.

But inspectors wrote citations for several serious building code violations, including having a structurally unsound stairway. Open candles also illuminated a stairwell and electrical cables were stretched across a wet basement floor.

The code violations found in both buildings could have led to deadly problems, Ford said.

“They’re just some of the things that leads us to a catastrophe taking place,” Ford said.

No one answered at phone numbers associated with either address on Sunday.

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