The Commercial Appeal

After Orlando shootings, venue safety questioned

- By Patrick Ryan

Ray Rivera (left), a DJ at Pulse nightclub, is consoled by a friend outside of the Orlando (Fla.) Police Department. The extent of the violence left survivors with stunned looks of disbelief and fear on their faces. USA TODAY

Fatal shootings in Orlando this weekend have renewed concerns about venue safety for entertaine­rs and audiences alike.

Early Sunday, an armed assailant opened fire in gay nightclub Pulse Orlando, killing 50 people and wounding 53 in the deadliest shooting spree in U.S. history. The massacre comes less than two days after former “The Voice” contestant Christina Grimmie was shot and killed in a meet-andgreet following a show at Orlando’s Plaza Live Theater late Friday.

Juana Villegas, one of roughly 300 people attending Grimmie’s Plaza Live show Friday, told the Orlando Sentinel that club security looked through her bag but didn’t pat her down or put concertgoe­rs through metal detectors. Pulse typically hosts 500 to 800 patrons a night, although details about its security measures on the night of the shooting are unknown.

“What both of these incidents illustrate is that no event is too small and that there are vulnerabil­ities, regardless of whether these (attacks) are terrorism, hate crimes or someone who is mentally disturbed,” says Russ Simons of facility management firm Venue Solutions Group. “It’s a completely new day in terms of how we have to look at these things.”

Experts worry that little has changed to increase security since the shootings at Paris’ Bataclan concert hall in November, where 89 died, and New York’s Irving Plaza last month, when one person was killed and three were wounded before a T.I. concert.

Many smaller venues aren’t equipped to invest in metal detectors, which typically start at $4,000 to $5,000.

“It’s expensive and may be cost-prohibitiv­e for some venues, but the cost of not having it is obvious, and one of those costs is Christina Grimmie,” says Ed McPherson, a Los Angeles entertainm­ent attorney and crisis manager.


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