Code enforcement keeping an eye on SXSW events

Austin Police say the number of South by Southwest event applications has increased by 50 percent during the last two years. City officials are working to make sure everyone is playing by the rules.

"A huge light show, disco ball, smoke, all that good stuff," says Eddie Dunn, general manager of Ten Oak.

It takes a big production to throw a SXSW event. Dunn is working around the clock to make it happen.

"This room will look completely different tonight. So about 6:00 p.m. we'll start converting it. For every band, they have different needs, so that gives us time to prepare for that," says Dunn.

They've already had two days of private events. So far, Dunn says he's seen more enforcement.

"We kind of let too many people in, so we kind of had to stop and move some people out. It gets crowded," says Dunn.

This year 205 event applications were processed for SXSW. That is 50 percent more than two years ago. 

"For a club, empty floor space and a stage is where the people can be. Based on that square footage, we can figure out a certain number of people they could have for their capacity. Now if you take that same space and put a bunch of tables and chairs in there, the same number of people wouldn't fit," says Division Chief Rob Vires, Fire Marshal, Austin Fire Department.

If a venue looks like it's reaching capacity, or is slightly over, code enforcement will recommend options such as one in, one out. But, different measures are taken if a venue is way over the limit.

"We'll write a citation. We've also closed clubs. We closed one down so far. They had an occupant-load card missing. Their occupancy should have been 279 and they had over 400 people inside the club. That wasn't safe," says Vires.

They've had to manage about a dozen overcrowding situations. Division Chief Rob Vires pointed out the Ghost Ship Fire last year in Oakland California. The warehouse was hosting a concert when all of a sudden a fire broke out, killing 36.

"We don't want that sort of situation here. So the idea is to try to maintain crowds and make sure that proper permitting and exiting is available for the number of folks inside. So that if God forbid there were an incident, that people would have the ability to get out safely and not be trapped inside," says Vires.

Ten Oak will have musical acts performing Wednesday through Sunday. They have hired more staff to handle the large crowds.

"First 350 in, come on in. After that, it's going to be one in, one out. So we'll reach that capacity and that's it," says Dunn.

Code enforcement says they want to work with the organizers, the last thing they want to do is shut down an event.

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