Upstairs pubs warned over crowding and noise

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 12 November, 2012, 5:31am

Upstairs pubs may face tighter rules on customer numbers to ensure fire safety and noise controls, the health minister has warned.

Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man also reminded bars that their liquor licences could be shortened if they broke the law, such as selling alcohol to under-18s or hosting customers who took drugs on the premises.

Bar owners warned a restriction on numbers could force many out of business.

Ko joined Liquor Licensing Board inspectors in a check of pubs in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui early yesterday.

"We are studying controls on upstairs bars in special situations, such as limits on the number of people inside" to ensure building safety, he said, adding that the government would increase fire safety inspections.

He reminded operators to stay clear of any illegal activities, which could lead to the board suspending their liquor licences.

The liquor licence for upstairs pubs normally lasts for one year.

Debbie Wong, manager of an upstairs bar called Otto Lounge in Central, said many upstairs bars would close if the number of customers was further restricted.

Regulations stipulate that a 1,000 square foot bar can accommodate only 30 people.

"Atmosphere is very important. If a bar looks empty, many people will not enter," Wong said.

"Bars on the ground floor are also noisy. If the officials are worried about the noise, bars can install soundproof glass. If the worry is on fire safety, there is only a slight difference in danger between having 21 people and having 30."

She said her bar would shut down sooner or later if the regulation was put into practice.

Allan Zeman, chairman of Lan Kwai Fong Holdings, agreed with the proposed safety measures.

"Hong Kong is a difficult place [to do business]; rent is expensive, so many bars are forced to occupy the upper floors. But from the safety point of view, I will agree with what the experts say," he said.

Ko also expressed concern about environmental hygiene at the bars and the safety of drunk customers.