Chin to plead for future of Sammy's

Sam Chin
Sam Chin
The owner of Dunedin nightspot Sammy's plans to meet Fire Service and Dunedin City Council staff to plead for the future of his building.

The popular live music venue was ordered to close by the Dunedin City Council on Friday, one day after a safety inspection found inadequate fire alarm systems, emergency lighting, blocked fire exits and staff lacking knowledge of evacuation plans.

However, building owner Sam Chin yesterday told the Otago Daily Times many of the concerns raised by the Fire Service had been addressed during the weekend.

They included clearing rubbish, furniture, kerosene drums and a vehicle blocking three of the venue's four fire exits, he said.

However, the installation of new automatic fire detection and warning systems in the old building would cost up to $30,000 - money Mr Chin said he did not have.

He was yet to speak to his family - who shared ownership of the building - about options for raising capital, but said a fundraising concert tapping into an outpouring of community support for the venue might be an option.

That would depend on securing a temporary agreement to reopen the building, or finding another venue to host such an event, he said.

He planned to contact council staff and deputy chief fire officer Trevor Tilyard and council staff today to arrange a meeting.

He hoped a deal allowing the venue to reopen while capital was raised would also allow a performance by Cornerstone Roots, scheduled for Thursday night, to go ahead.

Mr Chin - who used to run Sammy's as a live music venue - said he was hopeful the nightspot could be saved.

"I want it going because it's the best venue in the country . . .

"I'm pretty positive we can get things in place."

Contacted yesterday, Mr Tilyard said he would be prepared to meet Mr Chin and consider his suggestions, but stressed it was up to owners to ensure their buildings were safe for public use.

"Mr Chin long term is going to have to pick up his management of the building," he said.

"We are as keen as anyone else to see the venue open, but we are only going to be happy for it to open if it's safe.

"[Mr Chin] is the building owner.

"He's the one responsible for making sure it operates safely - not me or the city council."

Mr Chin took exception to one claim made by the Fire Service, that drums containing 600 litres of kerosene had blocked one of the fire exits - insisting the drums were empty and stored in a room next to the fire exit.

However, Mr Tilyard said building regulations clearly stated hazardous materials were not to be stored anywhere on the site, and empty drums - containing fumes - could be more dangerous than full drums.

"They can go `bang' much quicker," he said.

The drums were marked with "kerosene" on the side, but had not been opened as "we couldn't even get anywhere near them, there was that much rubbish near them", Mr Tilyard said.

Asked how much it could cost to install automatic fire detection and warning systems at Sammy's, Mr Tilyard said he did not know, but considered $30,000 "pretty cheap".



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