On the 28th November 2017, North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service received a complaint via the City of York Council Licensing Services. This was with regards to overcrowding at Kuda Nightclub, 13 Clifford Street, York. The complainant alleged this had occurred on the night of the 24th November 2017.
Fire Safety Inspectors visited the premises and commenced an investigation into the allegations.
It was discovered that on the night of the 24th November 2017, the number of people in the nightclub reached in excess of 1300 people. The existing Fire Safety Risk Assessment for the nightclub stated that the number should be limited to 645 people due to concerns over the size of the nightclub exits.
Investigations found that on the night in question, in addition to the overcrowding, there was no control of guest numbers between the three different floors of the nightclub. A high concentration of the occupants had congregated on the middle floor of the nightclub to watch the visiting DJ, known as “Basshunter”.This exacerbated the risk within an already overcrowded building.
The majority of the occupants in the nightclub at the time were young people, many of these consuming alcohol. In the event of a fire occurring within the nightclub, there was real risk that guests would not have been able to evacuate safely and could easily have become trapped in a burning building.
Because of these additional factors, high fire safety standards were of critical importance.
North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service were of the opinion that the risk to life of death or serious injury, was so great that prosecution was considered an appropriate course of action.
At Leeds Crown Court on Friday 21st June 2019, Judge Geoffrey Marson stated that “a very dangerous situation had developed” and “had there been a fire, it is too awful to contemplate what might have happened”.
Fines totalling £110,000 inclusive of costs were imposed by Judge Marson for the fire safety breaches on the night.
Prosecutions were taken against three involved parties, all pleading guilty to the offences.
The nightclub owner, Deltic Group Ltd, was fined a total of £42,000 and ordered to pay £16,666 costs.
The general manager of the nightclub, Mr Wayne Mason, received a 4 month prison sentence suspended for 2 years. Mr Mason was also ordered to serve 160 hours unpaid work and pay £16,666 costs.
The security company supplying door staff, Securigroup Services Ltd, was fined a total of £18,000 and ordered to pay £16,666 costs.
Cllr Andrew Waller, City of York Council Executive Member for Economy and Strategic Planning, said: “It is extremely important that venues continue to adhere to health and safety regulations, in order to protect their patrons. Where premises fail to follow the rules and care for the safety of their customers, we will act. We would like to thank North Yorkshire Fire Authority for their important work and we will continue to work closely with them to tackle this issue and make York safer for those enjoying themselves on an evening.
“We encourage everyone to report overcrowding or unsafe venues, so that we can continue to ensure that York remains a safe place for people to enjoy themselves. We hope this sends a strong message that we will continue to support the Fire Authority and take action against irresponsible venues. If you want to report an over capacity premises, please contact our licensing teams by emailing: email@example.com”
Watch Manager, David Lawrence of North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service said“North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will always visit premises when reports of poor fire safety standards are made to us. Depending on what is found, appropriate advice will be given to the business, informal action may be taken, or in some cases, such as this, the necessary enforcement action will be implemented.
“In this case, the risk to life, of death or serious injury was so great that prosecution was considered appropriate. All of the parties involved were in a position of trust and responsibility. Considering the age of the occupants along with the consumption of alcohol, that responsibility was so much greater.
“As a service we provide free fire safety advice to businesses and the public. We engage with various trade organisations and individual businesses to raise awareness of best practice around fire safety. I would welcome ideas from anyone and especially businesses as to how we can best reach out and deliver our important fire safety messages. Improving the standards of fire safety will reduce the risk of fire and help to keep individuals and businesses safer.”
We would like to remind business owners and landlords that it is important that they are aware of the legislative requirements they need to comply with including having an up to date fire risk assessment.
For other fire safety information call the Fire Safety Advice Line (01609) 788545 or visit our website www.northyorksfire.gov.uk where links to business guidance documents can be found.