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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2007
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Hartselle cage-fight venue shut
Fire marshal closes building to assembly until renovations are completed

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

HARTSELLE — The building where cage fighting occurred here last month has been closed to assembly events until the owner makes major renovations.

This could effectively end cage fighting in Hartselle regardless of what the attorney general says about legality. No building in Hartselle appears to meet requirements except one the city owns.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley said the city will no longer allow events in the Civic Center that include rings due to damage to the gym floor.

State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said the building at Chestnut and Sparkman streets where the last fight occurred does not comply with fire and safety codes, and cannot host cage fighting.

"This establishment shall not be allowed to reopen ... until state law has been satisfied that will include building and fire codes," Paulk said in his report.

Paulk is asking city officials to notify his office if Robert Clairday is considering other buildings in the city for cage fighting.

Clairday, who held two cage-fighting events last month, said he has been hosting the events in Hartselle for 25 years.

He and his attorney, Catherine Halbrooks, have accused city officials of trying to put him out of business. City leaders deny the allegations, saying they only want to know whether cage fighting is legal.

Paulk said the owner of the building will not be able to lease or rent it for assembly purposes until the owner submits architectural drawings and makes significant changes, such as installing sprinkler and fire alarm systems, improving exits and installing proper interior walls.

"The building was designed for mercantile, not assembly," Paulk said. "The reason he must have an architect involved is because the building has so many problems."

Clairday has signs advertising a cage-fighting event in Hartselle on Sept. 22. He is bringing cage fighting to the Frontier Lounge parking lot in Decatur on Friday night.

Meanwhile, Hartselle is awaiting an opinion from the attorney general on the legality of cage fighting.

In a related matter, Tankersley said, he requested that the fire marshal inspect Sparkman Civic Center. This has been the site of some of Clairday's events.

While not finding any significant violations, the fire marshal did lower the gymnasium capacity to 764.

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