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Old Building Blues

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It hasn't been entirely roses for the new hot spot, with some patrons raising questions about the building's safety: A few weekends back, there was an incident with a falling light fixture; luckily, it missed clubgoers. Other Ringside visitors have raised concerns about the space's lack of a sprinkler system. And the club was recently cited for a membership violation (state law requires that bars make at least 60 percent of their profit on food or be membership-only clubs). Ringside has responded by voluntarily reducing its capacity to 200 people. They also held a membership drive. (It's $5 per year.)

Penny responded in an open letter (posted online) where he defended the club's safety and stressed its fire inspection record. He also pointed out the difficulties of modernizing a historic building. "Do you think that New Orleans, with all the wonderful old buildings and all the wonderful clubs ... could be duplicated in any way, shape or form if you were to apply new construction, fire and building codes to it? ... You'd have to tear down the French Quarter."

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