It was a typically busy Saturday night at the Beverley Hills Supper Club, a North Kentucky nightclub which was a magnet for people from the region looking for a good night out. There was an extra buzz in the air at the sprawling entertainment complex because this was the Memorial Day holiday weekend and some 1,200 customers had crowded into the Club’s main Cabaret Room for the floor show featuring popular American singer John Davidson. As many people again were elsewhere in the building, dining and enjoying other facilities, when in the middle of the evening a fire burst out, spreading rapidly through the complex. The investigation afterwards showed that it had started in a small function room at the back of the building and had probably been caused by an electrical fault. Because the room was not in use at the time, the fire had burned for a while before being discovered.
When firefighters arrived they were met with a blazing inferno. There had been a stampede to evacuate the Cabaret Room and it was here that most of the deaths occurred. Many who managed to escape the flames succumbed to the deadly smoke from the cocktail of chemicals released by burning plastics. There was no hope of saving the building itself, which burned throughout the night. When daylight came, the grim task of salvaging corpses from the smoldering ruins could finally begin.
The subsequent inquiry into the disaster revealed various breaches of fire and safety codes, including a lack of alarms and sprinklers. Some of the construction materials also turned out to have been highly combustible. Worst of all, on that fateful night the club was thought to have had double the number of patrons it could safely accommodate.
When was the Beverley Hills Supper Club Blaze: May 28 1977
Where was the Beverley Hills Supper Club Blaze: Southgate, North Kentucky, USA
What was the Beverley Hills Supper Club Blaze death toll: 165
You should know: This was one of the first public disasters in American history in which the victims’ families pursued a class action suit for negligence against various manufacturers and equipment suppliers. Litigation lasted for years but settlements were finally obtained totaling some $50 million.