Officials from the Department of Licenses & Inspections have denied claims made this week that the city had closed some bars illegally.

Members of the Philadelphia License and Tavern Merchant Association met Wednesday at Mr. C's Love Lounge in West Philadelphia to discuss the closure of their businesses without being allowed what they said was a 30-day period to address violations.

But L&I Commissioners Fran Burns said the bar owners were mistaken.

Certain violations that present unsafe conditions could warrant an immediate closure, she said. L&I allows time to address certain violations before forcing a closure, but there is no provision ensuring such a period.

"It's up to our discretion," she said.

The bars whose owners were irked at L&I were closed for various violations, including electrical, permit and fire-safety problems.

Besides, Burns said, the owners may be pointing their fingers at the wrong agency because the Police Department's nuisance task force handled the bar closings being protested.

Dominic Verdi, the liaison between L&I and the task force, was there in March for the closure of Mr. C's Love Lounge, owned by Caleb Carter.

Verdi explained that Carter's bar posed several hazards, including deficient fire alarms and illegal use of space heaters, that resulted in shutting the bar for 11 days.

Verdi said that inspectors take fire hazards very seriously.

"We don't want another Rhode Island," he said, referencing a 2003 fire that killed 100 people at a club where flammable soundproofing facilitated the fire's spread.

Carter said yesterday that he agrees with the city that dangerous situations should prompt immediate closure, but he disagreed over what was dangerous.

"They shouldn't shut you down if all you need to do is replace a fire extinguisher," he said.

After Carter's bar was closed in March, the violations were corrected and the Love Lounge was cleared to re-open, Verdi said.

"We worked to get him back open as quickly as possible," Verdi said. *