The license of a Rochester, New York, concert venue was revoked Wednesday (March 8) while authorities investigate the circumstances of a stampede after a rap concert that left two women dead and injured several other concertgoers.
“It is one step we can immediately take to ensure that the events of Sunday night are not repeated,” Police Chief David M. Smith said at a news conference. He said he denied the Main Street Armory’s application to renew its one-year entertainment license after the venue’s owner did not attend a scheduled meeting with police and other city officials.
Rhondesia Belton, 33, of Buffalo and Brandy Miller, 35, of Rochester were fatally injured when audience members surged dangerously toward the exits following a Sunday evening performance by Memphis, Tennessee, rap stars GloRilla and Finesse2tymes. Police on Monday said the stampede may have been triggered by unfounded fears of gunfire. But police found no immediate evidence of gunshots.
One woman remained hospitalized in critical condition Wednesday.
Smith said the city planned to meet with the venue’s owner Wednesday to ask him to choose between voluntarily halting events or having the pending renewal of the entertainment license denied. When the owner did not attend, the chief signed an order prohibiting the armory from hosting “any public entertainment, which includes concerts, amplified music, and athletic events or games, including volleyball or cheerleading.”
There was no response to an email requesting comment sent to the Main Street Armory.
“Your contracted event security guards were unable to control the crowd as they were running, which in turn caused a human stampede,” according to the city’s letter to Scott Donaldson, which said he had violated a licensing requirement to maintain order at the site.
The city’s deputy corporation counsel, Patrick Beath, said criminal and regulatory investigations are under way.
“In addition to the police investigation, the Rochester Fire Department and code enforcement teams are inspecting the building and reviewing photographic and video evidence of the concert to determine if there were any fire code or building code violations at the property,” Beath said at the news conference.
The fortress-like armory was built from 1905 to 1907 and was initially used by the U.S. Army. It hosted sporting events throughout the 20th century before being shut down for several years starting in the late 1990s, partly because it lacked a fire-suppression system at the time. It began hosting concerts and other events in 2005 after undergoing extensive renovations.
Smith said its main arena is meant to have a capacity of about 5,000 people.
“The bottom line is, lives were lost, and we need to take steps to make sure that no lives are lost in the future if this was indeed something that was preventable,” he said.
Fatal crowd surges at large events have turned deadly before, including one at a 2021 concert by rapper Travis Scott in which 10 people died.