Since it was licensed as a restaurant, it was not subject to laws affecting theaters and dance halls.
There was new construction to the night club in 1942 to build out the Broadway Lounge. In inspecting the premises, the Building Commissioner found that the only error was the absence of a steel fire door between the new Broadway Lounge and the Main Dining Room. The door had been ordered but not delivered. The new lounge was opened without the required certificate of inspection
Eight days before the fire, the Boston Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau inspected the building. The reported noted that the club had sufficient exits and fire extinguishers. When tested with a match, none of the decorations ignited. The report stated “no flammable decorations” and concluded that the condition of the club was “good.”
Denials started just days after the fire, when investigations were on-going.
On December 1, 1942, the Licensing Board officials said they were only concerned with the liquor laws. They said they had no authority to deal with decorations of an inflammable nature, but they could order out decorations dangerous to the morals of patrons.
Police officials said they were concerned with enforcement of the liquor laws.
Building Commissioner James Moody said that he had no power to compel the use of fireproof draperies or decorations and could not compel the Cocoanut Grove to install fire sprinklers. “The Cocoanut Grove does not come under the heading of ‘places of public assembly and hence it was not subject to regulations that affect lodging houses and theaters.”
A new Building Exits Code (the predecessor to today’s Life Safety Code) had been approved in by NFPA in February 1942, but the code had not adopted by the City of Boston. In it were the principles of safety that, had they been followed, would have prevented many deaths:
· Exits available in reasonable travel distance
· At least two ways out remote from each other—additional exits according to the number of persons and relative fire danger
· Exit paths marked, unobstructed, well lighted
· Plan views of favored types of emergency exits
· Evacuation drills well planned, frequently practiced
In addition, the Building Exits Code said of revolving doors: “Revolving doors shall not be used on required exits except that approved collapsible revolving doors may be used between street floor (but not at foot of stairs) and street where specifically permitted by occupancy sections.”
William A. Reilly, in his Report Concerning the Cocoanut Grove Fire, made the following recommended legislation:
A new City of Boston Building Code, drafted in 1937, adopted in May 1943; it was not retroactive and had jurisdiction only over new construction.