New efforts to maintain crowd control in Columbia bars

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COLUMBIA -  Mizzou football season kicks off Saturday, pouring Mizzou fans into the stadium, bars and nightclubs.

Battalion Chief Brad Frazier said the first week of school launches a new effort to keep bars and nightclubs from going over occupancy. Every bar has a specific amount of people it can allow in at a time.

Columbia Fire Department and Columbia Police Department start working collaboratively this weekend to maintain crowd control in Columbia bars and nightclubs.

Shiloh Bar & Grill owner Tom Atkinson said he continuously speaks with Columbia Fire Department to help the effort as a bar owner. Atkinson puts up a tent outside of Shiloh as another fan gathering option.

"To close the parking lot out and put up a tent, we have to obtain a permit from the city and state," Atkinson said. "We have to submit plans for the tents with the exits, that all has to be approved by the fire department."

Battalion Chief Brad Frazier said the efforts aim toward the downtown area, however, they are not exclusive.

Mizzou student Ally Straussner said the first week of school is always the busiest and it can be overwhelming trying to move around in a bar.

"Everyone is back at school, seeing their friends," Straussner said. "I can't even imagine what this weekend will be like when alumni come in and go to the bars, it's going to be absolutely nuts."

Frazier said the ongoing effort is to ensure the community is safe is important. If a fire were to break out in a nightclub or bar, the number of people inside the bar effects how many people can make it out safely.

"We want to be proactive and work with bar owners and help them understand what their occupancy level is and how to maintain it."

Frazier said the fire department looks at every business and assess what the space will be used for and then determines what the occupancy level can be.

Atkinson said it can be challenging to maintain the limit during football weekends, but the staff goes through training.

"We have security and door guys count the people," Atkinson said. "If it's the case where we are extremely busy, it might be for one person in, one must come or not allowing anyone in order to keep up with the fire code."

Columbia bars must display an occupancy rate sheet in the bar, showing people how many people are allowed in at one time. Frazier said the document is signed by a member of the fire department.