Sheriff’s office raises safety concerns at popular dance barn

Published: May. 8, 2023 at 5:11 PM CDT
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ARTHUR, N.D. (Valley News Live) - The Cass County Sheriff’s Office says it’s working with the owners of the Arthur Barn after deputies raised a laundry list of safety concerns over the last few months and said they believe people will get hurt if things don’t change.

Authorities say the problems have been mounting for at least six months at the popular dance barn which burned down in Oct. 2017, and was re-built and re-opened in Aug. 2019.

In a March 23, 2023 letter from Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner to Arthur Barn’s owners, Sheriff Jahner outlines underage drinking, a lack of ID checks, capacity issues and backpacks as some of the main problems plaguing the venue. He says the issues have been causing both safety concerns and ‘policing obstacles’ for his deputies. You can read the full letter by clicking here.

“When people can bring in extra items, extra clothing, extra backpacks, you know, does it have alcohol in there, contraband or could it be weapons? It’s always in the back of people’s minds, I think, at large venues to turn into an active-threat situation. Really, we want to limit the opportunities for someone to do that,” Jahner said.

Since January, the Arthur Barn has held seven dances. We dug through court records and found at least 86 minor in consumption citations were handed out at the barn in that timeframe. More than 25 percent of those happened at the most recent dance on April 28 when the sheriff’s office wrote 26 tickets.

Most of those cited were 18 or 19 year olds, and 51 of the 86 cited for minor in consumption chose to take a breathalyzer test. The average blood alcohol content, BAC, was .113, almost twice the legal limit, according to documents. The highest BAC recorded was .235 by a 19-year-old at the April 14 barn dance.

“This barn is isolated and people have to drive to the location. So, the other concern that comes in is drinking and driving,” he said. “Can someone wander away from the property? Maybe get disoriented because they’re intoxicated and not be able to find their way back?”

Hired as private security by barn owners for each dance, Sheriff Jahner says his deputies have stated ‘they feel like they are condoning’ the unsafe activity at the dances because they’re unable to ‘properly police’ them.

“There are things that we feel very strongly about that need to change,” Jahner said.

Those changes include mandatory ID checks at the door, wristbands for minors and no backpacks. Jahner says the barn owners have been receptive to the proposed solutions and have been working to implement them.

“We still haven’t been able to work through all those issues, but we’re working to make it safer,” Jahner said.

We reached out to the barn owners several times for an interview, but only received a brief comment from them stating they were taking measures to stop the problems.

Sheriff Jahner says he hopes all of the safety concerns will be addressed during the barn’s off-season this summer, and will be both a better protected and secure venue for upcoming events this fall.