Russian clubs face legacy of Perm tragedy

Over the years, the nightclub culture has become a key part of entertainment in Russia, with scores of bars and discos opening everywhere. But a tragic fire in a Perm club last December showed it is not all fun.

An indoor fireworks display at a nightclub in the city of Perm went horribly wrong, resulting in the death of 152 people. Most of the materials used in the club's interior were highly flammable, such as the ceiling, which was decorated with straw and plastic.

Smoke filled the main hall in less than one minute and many of the guests were not able to escape because the club had only one exit. An investigation revealed a number of gross safety violations, which infuriated authorities and resulted in a nation-wide fire regulations check.

Following the tragedy, Russia’s Minister of Emergencies, Sergey Shoigu, said:

According to the law, the owner of any facility is fully responsible for its compliance with fire safety measures. We found a lot of problems in the club sector since, instead of following the law, many clubs were doing everything to get around it.”

As a result of the inspection campaign, more than twenty clubs and bars were temporarily closed in Moscow alone, including some of the most well-known venues – all because of inadequate fire safety measures.

Some clubs have already been able to eliminate any safety hazards and are open once again. But their managers claim that the violations they were cited for were not as severe as those in Perm.

All of the club's staff have to be especially trained to help evacuate the building in case of an emergency,” says Ilya Zinin, a nightclub manager. “This is a question of qualified workers – and I think the staff and management of that club in Perm showed extraordinary negligence.”

While Dmitry Patyushkin, a nightclub promoter who has been visiting clubs almost every night for the past three years, says the Perm incident is unlikely to change people’s attitude towards nightlife.

Emergencies do happen – take planes crashes for example,” Patyushkin asserts. “It's a question of statistics, luck and fate. Life has to go on and we have to live the way we want to, just be careful and pay attention both in clubs and on the street.”

Patyushkin could be right. Judging from the undying vigor of Russia’s nightclub patrons, even the horror in Perm is unlikely to subdue people’s desire to go out and enjoy themselves once in a while.

However, one must remember that until those who ignore safety measures change their approach, a night out may turn into a nightmare.