Safety checks apply to club locations in wake of report

THE location of clubs and bars will be considered when officials review their requests for exemptions from full safety requirements, a government spokesman said yesterday.

In Mr Justice Bokhary's report on the Lan Kwai Fong tragedy in which 21 people died he said the ''added danger'' of congested streets, which could block a building's escape routes, should be taken into account when reviewing applications.

''We will certainly look at that,'' said Mr Robin Howes, chief officer with the Office of Licensing Authority. ''We will look at the street.'' He added: ''We would be guided by other authorities as to where congested streets are likely to be and where that's a problem.'' But Mr Howes said his office was merely operational and any policy change would have to originate from City and New Territories Administration (CNTA) headquarters.

''Ultimately we will be led by the policy branch,'' he said.

Mr Justice Bokhary raised the spectre of a much larger Lan Kwai Fong disaster ''if, for example, a fire had broken out in one of the establishments in Lan Kwai Fong while the streets there were packed solid as they were on that tragic occasion''.

Before the recently enacted ordinance, safety standards were more lax for clubs than for establishments like restaurants.

The report says: ''Such establishments were clubs in name only for membership was open to all and sundry on the spot with no questions asked.'' Under the new ordinance, all clubs will have to be as safe as restaurants by 1995.

According to the CNTA, there are 29 such clubs operation under exemption in Lan Kwai Fong.

Also in the wake of the release on Thursday of Mr Justice Bokhary's report, the Urban Council said it would be more vigilant in issuing licences for public entertainment events.

Mr Justice Bokhary urged authorities to ''scrutinise such applications with increased care whenever any such event might lead to or exacerbate crowd control difficulties''.

The Urban Services Department's senior staff officer (public health), Mr Chan Sa-nam, promised his department would become ''more stringent'' when vetting applications.

Mr Chan, who attended the open hearing on the disaster, described Mr Justice Bokhary's recommendations as reasonable. ''I agree that in future we should look at applications more closely, especially the status of the applicant and the estimated attendance,'' he said.

The licence for the New Year's Eve countdown broadcast was issued to Commercial Radio.