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Overcrowding at Blu Jaz Cafe six times over limit, irresponsible: Police

SINGAPORE — Popular entertainment venue Blu Jaz Café allowed more than five times the permitted number of people on its second floor on two occasions this year, posing very serious safety risks to its staff and patrons, said the police on Friday (Oct 19).

Overcrowding at Blu Jaz Cafe six times over limit, irresponsible: Police

Blu Jaz’s licence to hold live performances is set to be terminated next Monday, after a previous appeal was rejected.

SINGAPORE — Popular entertainment venue Blu Jaz Cafe allowed more than five times the permitted number of people on its second floor on two occasions this year, posing very serious safety risks to its staff and patrons, said the police on Friday (Oct 19).

Police described the management's actions in allowing this as "very irresponsible", adding that the second incident — barely a week after the first — saw the overcrowding limit breached by over six times. 

Responding to media queries, a police spokesperson said the independent Public Entertainment Appeal Board is reviewing Blu Jaz’s latest appeal against the cancellation of its Public Entertainment Licence.

The board is made up of members from the private and public sectors.

Blu Jaz’s licence to hold live performances is set to be terminated next Monday, after a previous appeal was rejected.

On Friday, the police said the bar had repeatedly flouted licensing conditions and accumulated 24 demerit points within a 24-month period.

Detailing two recent instances of “severe overcrowding”, the spokesperson said its approved occupancy load for the second floor is 30 persons.

But the police found more than 150 people on the second floor on April 28, more than five times the approved load.

In a follow-up check on May 5, the police found the bar flouting this rule again, allowing close to 200 people onto the second floor – more than six times the approved limit.

“Such severe overcrowding poses very serious safety risks to patrons and staff, especially in the event of a fire. If there is a need to evacuate, it may result in a stampede,” said the spokesperson.

“The fact that the overcrowding occurred on the upper level significantly compounded the danger to everyone in the premises. It was very irresponsible of the management of the café to have allowed those situations to occur, putting so many lives at risk,” she added.

Not only did Blu Jaz fail to address the breach on April 28, it allowed the same offence to recur the following week to an “even greater degree”, said the police spokesperson.

News of the licence cancellation spread this week, prompting many performers and the community to speak up against the move. Since opening in 2005 on Bali Lane in the Kampong Glam district, Blu Jaz has groomed many young talents and hosted many Singapore acts including comedian Fakkah Fuzz and singer-songwriter Charlie Lim, who updated this year’s National Day Parade theme song We Are Singapore.

The police have to take such breaches very seriously and treat outlets that accumulate 24 demerit points the same way, said the spokesperson.

“It is untenable to treat different outlets differently,” she said.

When contacted, Blu Jaz’s director Aileen Tan said it “takes full ownership of its offences” and agreed that the safety of patrons was of “paramount importance”.

Blu Jaz has since deployed personnel to do headcounts. It has also raised the minimum age to access the second floor to 25 for men and 21 for women, up from 18.

Ms Tan said the two occasions flagged by the police were the bar’s R&B Hip Hop nights, which have since been cancelled as part of a “programming change”.

The events on April 28 and May 5 were planned three months in advance to celebrate hip hop, rap and beat-boxing.

The turn-out exceeded expectations, and patrons could move freely between the first and second floors because the events were not ticketed, she said.

Publicity materials for the May 5 event had already been sent out before April 28 and the bar was unable to cancel the acts, said Ms Tan. ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALFRED CHUA

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