By John Dundon
Suffolk County authorities are stepping up inspections of bars, restaurants and nightclubs on Eastern Long Island this summer to ensure local establishments’ compliance with occupancy limits and emergency exit plans.
Inspired by the Pulse Night Club massacre in Orlando, the goal of the initiative is to prevent casualties in the event of a mass shooting, fire or other emergency, police announced last week. The inspections are in conjunction with the five western Suffolk towns—Huntington, Babylon, Islip, Smithtown and Brookhaven.
“Overcrowding and limited exit access may lead to be a contributing factor to injury or death of patrons,” Suffolk Police Commissioner Timothy Sini told reporters Friday during a news conference at police headquarters in Yaphank. “There have been instances historically…where casualties may have been reduced if the exits were clearly marked. That’s a real tragedy.”
Sini cautioned that there is no imminent threat of a mass shooting on LI. The inspections are a proactive measure that will be taking place during operating hours. Exits and occupancy will be the focal points.
Mario Saccenti, vice president of the Long Island chapter of the New York Restaurant Association, supported the plan.
“Whatever procedures are handed down to us by the county, we will follow diligently.” he said. “Any sort of effort to keep our patrons safe is something we can get behind.”
Meghan Watz, a bartender at The Signal 8 Saloon in Copiague, echoed the sentiment.
“Keeping customers safe should be the first priority,” Watz said. “We trust the police department to do that. The police think this will save lives… we need to trust their judgement.”
Watz, who noted that her bar was up to code with all proposed measures, added that inspections should be done during operating hours.
“It shows you what these places are like when it matters,” she said. “Not when they’ve had a week to prepare for an inspection.”