Fire marshal shuts down Landing business, site of mass shooting

I-TEAM: Building plan doesn't show game bar; no record of permit for remodel

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville Fire marshal shut down Chicago Pizza at the Jacksonville Landing on Wednesday, three days after a gunman entered a game bar that shares space with the restaurant, killed two and injured 10 others.

The I-TEAM was at the Landing Wednesday as fire investigators were seen inside and around the business. Around 2 p.m., a "Cease and Desist" sign was posted on the entrance by the fire marshal -- and we've uncovered why. 

First, the I-TEAM obtained an email chain that included Jacksonville Fire Marshal Kevin Jones, Chief Building Inspector Thomas Goldsbury, Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa and Mayor Lenny Curry’s chief of staff, Brian Hughes.

Over two days, the city and fire leaders specifically discussed the Good Luck Have Fun Gaming Bar inside Chicago Pizza -- the location of Sunday's mass shooting during a "Madden NFL 19" tournament. 

Tuesday morning: Chief Jones wrote in the email that Chicago Pizza’s building plans were from 2009, and he attached a diagram showing those approved plans. He wrote, "It does not show where a game room was a part of the submitted plans.”

Jones went on to say that unless there were plans he was unaware of, “I believe Chicago Pizza is in violation of NFPA 101,, (a fire code), which effectively states that the previously approved layout plan 'shall constitute the only acceptable arrangement...'"

Wednesday morning: Chief Building Inspector Thomas Goldsbury replied in the email saying, “I looked through the permit history and couldn’t find anything other than what you sent.”

SLIDESHOW: Chicago Pizza photographs taken by Jacksonville fire marshal

We also obtained the warning notice as well as the citations issued to Chicago Pizza Wednesday afternoon by the fire marshal.

The business was cited for three fire code violations:

  • Blocking exits with video game machines and other objects.
  • Using strip plugs as permanent wiring.
  • Using extension cords as a substitute for permanent wiring.

Chicago Pizza was also given a warning for not complying with the last approved floor plan and told to stop the “unpermitted use” of a game room.

In the code violation report, Jones wrote in the summary:

"If Chicago Pizza would not have altered the layout plan by creating an unpermitted game room area, the video game tournament would not have occurred, and thus, this incident would not have occurred at the Jacksonville Landing. This area was neither authorized nor a part of their submitted and approved building layout plan."

READ: Aug. 29 Chicago Pizza Fire Code Violation Report

The I-TEAM also obtained fire safety inspection reports for Chicago Pizza dating back to July 2011. The only red flag was a failed inspection in October 2017, when the restaurant was cited for failing to use extension cords as temporary wiring, failing to provide complete records of fire alarm tests and failing to maintain operational integrity of the fire alarm (battery backup).

A follow-up inspection in January noted that all those violations had been corrected but that the "back computer room is still not being used because they were waiting to have electrical work completed."

Chicago Pizza is owned by Cliff Comastro, who is from Jacksonville. A spokesman said he’s also the owner of GLHF Gaming Bar. We've reached out to find out what plans to be done about violations, and we will update this story when we hear back.

UPDATE: After the first cease and desist order the Fire Marshal posted on the door was covered up by a sign saying "Stay tuned for reopening," the fire marshal returned late Wednesday afternoon and posted a second notice. As of 6 p.m., that cease and desist sign was still visible by the entrance.

In a statement issued earlier Wednesday by Comastro, before Chicago Pizza was shut down for violations, he wrote:

I and my staff at Chicago Pizza & Sports Grille and GLHF Game Bar are extremely shocked and saddened at the needless loss of life resulting from the senseless shooting that occurred on Sunday, August 26.

This was an isolated incident that occurred during a video gaming tournament being held at GLHF Game Bar for the EA Sports Madden NFL 19 franchise.

As we grieve with those who were impacted by this tragic incident, we would like to thank the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and all local law enforcement and first responders who acted promptly to contain the situation. Their heroic acts of bravery prevented this incident from further escalation.

When we created GLHF (Good Luck, Have Fun) Game Bar, we envisioned a place
where the gaming community could gather to share in one of the pursuits that elicits pure joy.

Our hearts are broken, but together, we hope to begin the healing process as a
community here in Jacksonville."

-Cliff Comastro, owner, Chicago Pizza & Sports Grille and GLHF Game Bar

About the Authors:

Lifetime Jacksonville resident anchors the 8 and 9 a.m. weekday newscasts and is part of the News4Jax I-Team.