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Capacity Cut at Michael’s Supper Club

Times Staff Writer

To meet county fire and building codes, Michael’s Supper Club, the new pop concert venue in Dana Point, has been forced to operate at half its intended capacity.

When the waterfront club opened Aug. 24, owner Michael Zanetis and club managers said its capacity was 306 with table seating, and 333 with tables plus standing room. But Chuck Nicola, assistant fire marshal for the Orange County Fire Department, said Tuesday that Michael’s opened under several misconceptions and omissions concerning the building and fire safety regulations.

In fact, Nicola said, the 333 capacity is proper only if the room is left unfurnished and limited to dancing. For shows with a stage and patrons seated at tables, the capacity is 157.

Zanetis could not be reached Tuesday. Jim Spencer, general manager of Michael’s Supper Club, said the change hasn’t affected the club’s schedule of twice-nightly pop shows. Comedian Charles Fleischer plays there tonight. “Everything is going off as normal as far as I know” for all advertised shows, Spencer said.

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Nicola said the club’s capacity was partially reduced after sold-out opening-night shows by B.B. King, and the limit of 157 was set after King completed his run on Aug. 28.

"(Zanetis) is not real happy about it. Can’t say as I blame him,” Nicola said. “It’s got to be an economic hardship. He’s losing 300 people every night. But we couldn’t see it in anybody’s best interest, and certainly not the public’s safety,” to allow the club to operate above legal capacity.

The seating limit of 157 is based on a space requirement of 15 square feet per occupant, which “is the standard in the western United States,” Nicola said.

The fire marshal said Zanetis also installed a stage in the showroom without getting a necessary building permit and opened the club without a necessary certificate of use and occupancy from the county.

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Nicola said Zanetis told officials that he assumed permits and occupancy levels in effect for the defunct Crown Point restaurant would automatically be in effect for his nightclub. The Crown Point occupied the building several years ago.

In opening without a permit, Zanetis “could be liable for criminal action, although we’re not pursuing that,” Nicola said. “He’s been very cooperative with us, and we can understand the predicament he’s in, so we’re working with him.”

Michael’s, which has a Reuben’s restaurant adjoining the nightclub, could increase its capacity to about 280 if it had seats but no tables, Nicola said, but that would not allow for food and drinks to be served in the concert showroom. Another option would be for Zanetis to ask the state fire marshal for a variance, or easing of the regulations.

“We might support that,” Nicola said, but Michael’s probably would have to add three or four exits to qualify for a substantial seating increase.

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Spencer, the general manager at Michael’s, said the club probably would appeal its lowered seating limit to state officials, but beyond that, “we don’t know what we’ll do yet.”


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