How many is too many?

Over­crowd­ing is costly, in nu­mer­ous ways

The Amherst News - - CUMBERLAND COUNTY - Frankly Speak­ing Frank Likely Frank Likely is a re­tired Angli­can min­is­ter who lives in Springhill.

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.

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