Severe overcrowding posed safety risks at Blu Jaz: Police

Blu Jaz can still operate as a cafe but can no longer hold live music performances from next Monday.
Blu Jaz can still operate as a cafe but can no longer hold live music performances from next Monday.PHOTO: ST FILE

Cafe twice had over 150 people on upper floor, which is approved for maximum of 30

Blu Jaz Cafe repeatedly flouted licensing conditions under the Public Entertainments Act, putting patrons and staff at risk, said the police in a statement yesterday.

Instances of "severe overcrowding" at the live music venue in Bali Lane were the two most recent breaches that led to the popular live music venue getting its public entertainment licence cancelled.

It accumulated 24 demerit points within a 24-month period, which led to the police issuing a cancellation order of its licence on Oct 8.

This means Blu Jaz can still operate as a cafe but can no longer hold live music performances from next Monday.

Since news broke about the licence cancellation, home-grown musicians and performers have rallied around the venue. Jazz singer Joanna Dong, for example, took to Facebook to say Blu Jaz losing its entertainment licence "will undoubtedly stunt the growth of local music".

The police, in explaining their decision for revoking the licence, gave examples of how Blu Jaz had flouted regulations.

On April 28, the police found that there were more than 150 people on the second floor of the three-storey venue, even though it has a maximum approved occupancy load of 30 people on that floor.

Blu Jaz was informed of the infringement but when a check was done the following week, there were close to 200 people on the second floor, said the police.

"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 police.

 
 

"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 cafe to have allowed those situations to occur, putting so many lives at risk."

It was even more worrying, said the police, that the management, despite being informed of the breach, did not put in any mitigating measures and instead allowed severe overcrowding to happen the following week, this time "by an even greater degree".

The police added that they have received an appeal and that it is being reviewed by the independent Public Entertainment Appeal Board, which comprises members from the private and public sectors.

Blu Jaz has played host to everything from jazz bands and hip-hop DJs to spoken word and comedy performances, and is a stalwart of the Kampong Glam area, having been around for 13 years.

It set up a petition to garner support for the appeal to the board. As of 4pm yesterday, the petition had more than 4,400 signatures.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 20, 2018, with the headline 'Severe overcrowding posed safety risks at Blu Jaz: Police'. Print Edition | Subscribe