Beverly Hills Supper Club memorial ceremony set for May

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Southgate will commemorate the 46th anniversary of the Beverly Hills Supper Club fire with a long-awaited memorial at the site on May 28.

The 1977 fire killed 165 people. At the time, it was the third-worst nightclub fire in the U.S. The 80-acre, 54,000-square-foot entertainment complex didn’t have smoke detectors, sprinklers, smoke alarms, or enough exits for the overcrowded venue. The tragedy led to changes in building-code enforcement.

On the anniversary, the city will unveil the public memorial, which will include the names of the victims, a list of local first responder units that responded to the fire, maps of the site in 1977, and a list of fire safety regulations that were implemented after the blaze.

In a press release, Southgate Mayor Jim Hamberg stated:

“It will be 46 years to the day that we will gather to dedicate a memorial that will ensure that those who perished in the fire, those they left behind and the first responders who fought the fire and cared for the injured will never be forgotten,” he said. “The memorial will provide a lasting legacy and allow those who visit it take a moment to recall how profoundly this event forever changed and shaped our community.”

A committee—including Tim Rolf of Rolf Monument, Northern Kentucky first responders, and community members and individuals with personal connections to the fire—is in the process of planning the event.

At last week’s city council meeting, Hamberg said the base of the memorial has already been built, and the program shouldn’t last more than 90 minutes.

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“I want to be sure we’ve got that day taken care of,” he said. “I want Southgate to shine. We may come back to council asking for some dollars.”

A marker stands by the roadside on U.S. 27 right now.

“Families arrived for days searching for loved ones, as [sic] site smoldered… most people in the area knew someone who lost family here,” the two-sided marker reads.

Ashley Builders Group and Vision Realty Group bought the vacant property to build the Memorial Pointe residential community. In 2020, the builders resolved a lawsuit in which descendants of the victims sued the company because they wanted the site preserved. Ashley Builders agreed to make the location where the Cabaret Room existed—where most of the people perished—a permanent memorial. Memorial Pointe will consist of 84 single-family homes, 200 luxury apartments, and an assisted living facility of 79 residential units. 

“The memorial will always remind us to never stop looking back to remember those who lost their lives at Beverly Hills and those they left behind,” Bill Kreutzjans Jr. of Ashley Builders Group said in a press release.

John Beatsch, Southgate’s fire chief, was a lieutenant in the Southgate Volunteer Fire Department when the blaze broke out. In a 2017 oral history written about the tragedy, he reflected on that night.

“Bad as it all was, I think it made me a better firefighter,” he said. “It made me want to be better, to be able to do more if I could…Myself today, I wouldn’t want to go in a place that feels overcrowded or short on exits. And even if it’s just a very busy place, I’d want to position myself near one of the exits. People just have to keep in mind that you can’t take the safety of a place for granted. You’re not always OK.”

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LINK nky will provide more details about the dedication as they are made available.

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