Karaoke bar operators were assured yesterday that fire safety rules due by June would treat them fairly. Deputy Secretary for Security Alex Fong Chi-wai said the rules - part of a licensing system - would be introduced in stages so operators would not be forced to shut. But he declined to spell out a detailed timetable and whether there would be a grace period. Deputy Director of Buildings Cheng Wei-dart described karaoke bars as dark, noisy, crowded and filled with men under the influence of alcohol. He said the bars needed regulation. Initial suggestions from the Fire Services and Buildings departments are installation of fire alarm signals and fire exit maps in each karaoke compartment. In case of fire the ventilation system should automatically switch off to prevent smoke spreading. Dead-end escape routes would be eliminated. Views from architects and the karaoke industry are being sought. The shake up in regulations for the bars was triggered by the Top One Karaoke fire in Tsim Sha Tsui which killed 17 people on January 25.