Once is a mistake, four times is flaunting the law.
That seems to be the opinion of an Alberta judge who has fined a Calgary nightclub $40,000 for violating its occupancy capacity.
The fine results from an incident last summer when liquor inspectors found more than 420 people in the bar with an occupancy capacity of 250. It took the five inspectors more than an hour and a half to clear the bar to within its capacity limit. And that was in a calm, controlled atmosphere.
One can only imagine the carnage that would have happened should there have been a fire or other incident at the bar when so over-full.
The judge rightly described the situation as a “disaster waiting to happen.”
Occupancy limits are one of those things we often pay little attention to when we enter a public building, but perhaps we should. It may feel good to be part of a large crowd and see a place jam packed for an event; we all like businesses to do well, but let's not put our own safety at risk.
Occupancy limits are established for our safety. Based on the size of a facility, the number of exits, and other criteria, officials establish a limit which would allow for a safe and efficient evacuation even in the panic of a crisis.
Bar owners tried to explain the overcrowding situation as an unfortunate “miscommunication between management and staff” but that did not fly with the judge who noted the bar had been convicted three times previously in the last four years for the same offence and already fined almost $20,000.
The judge came down hard on the business - as well he should have. Hopefully word of this incident will spread around the industry and others will have second thoughts about allowing too many people in. It could be costly and it's certainly not safe.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister who lives in Springhill.