By Emma Mitchell •
Updated: 03 Oct 2023 • 14:41
Accusations over fire. Credit: twitter.com/BomberosMurcia
As investigations continue into the cause of the inferno that engulfed three nightclubs in Murcia in the early morning of October 2, killing 13 people, Murcia City Council have issued a statement accusing the clubs of operating without a licence.
Amid the good news that the 16 people missing, feared dead, in the blaze that ripped through the Teatre, Fonda and Golden nightclubs in Murcia have now all been found in good health, accusations and speculation about who, and what is to blame for the fire abound in the Spanish language press.
Yesterday evening, Murcia City Council released an official statement on their website saying that they have “confirmed that the company never obtained municipal permits to divide its establishment into two premises, Teatre and La Fonda, and had been operating without authorisation since January 2022.”
The venue was a large warehouse structure owned by a private company, Teatre SL, and in 2019 the company lodged a request to the Council to divide the building into two clubs, Teatre and La Fonda. The request was denied by the former administration’s Urban Planning Councilor, Andrés Guerrero after Council technicians determined that the request would require a separate licence since the internal configuration of the building had been substantially changed when dividing one club into two.
The venue’s owners lodged an appeal against the cessation order which was dismissed in late February 2022. A month later, in March 2022, the company put forward a request to legalise the premises by obtaining new licences, but the operation was never completed meaning, according to Murcia Council, that the clubs should not have been operating.
In October 2022, Murcia Council requested municipal inspection services to verify the cessation of activity, but it is not clear whether the inspection was ever carried out. So far, the Council has refused to comment to the Spanish press on the matter and appears to blame a change of administration for the uncertainty.
The Council has stated that is going to appear as an accusor in the Court of Instruction, Number 7 where proceedings for the fire are being carried out. The current Deputy Mayor for Urban Planning, Huerta and Environment, Antonio Navarro, has declared, “We are facing an unprecedented tragedy and we are going to act forcefully to purge responsibilities for what happened to the final consequences, whatever the cost.”
A spokesperson for the La Fonda club, lawyer Francisco Adán, has said that all documentation related to the business was lost in the fire and that he had no knowledge about a closure order. A Colombian businessman Juan Esteban Ramírez, who leases La Fonda, told Blu Radio station, “It was never conveyed to me that we should have a cessation of activity, a closure, because if the authorities or the owner (of the Teatre premises) tell you that you must close, it is illogical that you can continue opening,”
A spokesperson on behalf of Teatre, María Dolores Abellán, has stated that the premises had its licence in order. “We do not understand the City Council’s motivation for saying that Teatre does not have a license because it is known in Murcia and in the Mediterranean, it is a famous nightclub and everyone knew that it worked,” she said. “I do not know if the reasons are political or what color they are,” she added.
If found to be guilty of running the clubs without the required permissions, the owners and managers of the nightclubs could face prosecution for 13 reckless homicides. In addition, if it transpires that the Council failed to follow up on inspections at the premises to ensure that the closure order had been carried out, they could be liable for compensation claims connected to the fire.
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Emma landed in journalism after nearly 30 years as an executive in the Internet industry. She lives in Bédar and her interests include raising one eyebrow, reckless thinking and talking to people randomly. If you have a great human interest story you can contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
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