For days afterward, New Orleanians were shocked by the fire. Fire inspectors briefly swarmed through other French Quarter bars, looking for safety violations, although none none had played a role in The Upstairs tragedy.
Roger Dale Nunez, then 26
in mid-November 1974, Nunez committed suicide at his eastern New Orleans home, records show
The harbinger of doom that night was the non-stop ringing of a buzzer at The Upstairs' gate at 604 Iberville, where a narrow, street-level stairwell led to the second-floor door. It was almost an hour after the ritual 5-7 p.m. beer bust had ended, and Townsend's research indicates bartender Buddy Rasmussen asked someone to see who was at the gate.
The customer who opened the door was hit by a wall of fire that had been building in the stairwell and exploded into the bar.
"It was like someone brought in a suitcase with dynamite," a shaken survivor said later.
Glenn Fontenot, spokesman for the Louisiana state fire marshal's office