Bars told to watch for fire risks

JO MOIR
Last updated 14:18 14/02/2013
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Popular concert venue San Francisco Bath House has had the number of people it's allowed through their doors chopped in half.

Last month the Cuba St bar owners Tim Ward and Clinton den Heyer were told by the fire service their maximum capacity was almost half of the 500 people they thought they were legally allowed to hold.

This came on the back of a complaint about the capacity of the venue.

Mr Ward told Dominion Post music reviewer Simon Sweetman the bar has an "ultimate problem" that they currently don't have a solution to.

The capacity issues meant the Godspeed You! Black Emperor gig scheduled for last Saturday night was shifted to The Hunter Lounge.

The venue is continuing to take bookings and all those currently in place up to May are scheduled to continue.

Only last month, 235 people died in a nightclub in southern Brazil when a flare set the building alight and a lack of alarms, sprinklers and exits prevented people escaping.

Fire Service risk management officer Bruce Cole said concerns arose with San Francisco Bath House after fire crews attended an alarm. There was a "miscommunication" with the bar owners over the number of people in the bar, which he said had been increasing over time.

He believed concert promoters had been advertising more tickets than the venue could legally hold. The limit was about 250 people, and the bar owners had agreed to meet that occupancy rate, he said.

"A meeting was held between council, the owner of the building and us, and we were very pleased with the response."

Mighty Mighty, another popular bar, has been contacted about contacted by Wellington City Council and the Fire Service about how many people it allows in, and about keeping fire exits clear. 

Mr Cole said Mighty Mighty had been contacted about fire exits, which had since been addressed.

Mighty Mighty co-owner Sally Thomson said she was not aware of any problems at the bar, and efforts were always made to restrict numbers to a maximum of 140.

"All we can do is keep our eyes on numbers, and keep fire doors clear of rubbish."

Wellington City Council was dealing with a discrepancy in occupancy figures between its records and those of Ghuznee St bar Bodega, Mr Cole said. "It appears some of the information has changed and the paperwork is being sorted out."

Bodega owner Catherine Popert said that, despite the bar having a capacity of 570, it tried to keep admissions to about 500.

"We mainly do this because we think it's a more comfortable number and we've never oversold, but obviously the tragedy in Brazil highlights why we should be careful."

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- The Dominion Post

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