Nightclub Insurance Risks – Remembering Summerland

Times have changed, fashions have changed, the music has changed and the dances have changed, even Insurance Blog has changed; but the risks to nightclubs remain as powerful as ever since Britain’s worst ever nightclub disaster, which killed more than 50 clubbers and seriously injured over 80 others, 38 years ago at the Summerland Resort Complex on the Isle of Man in August 1973.

The Summerland complex was opened 40 years ago in May 1971 in Douglas on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea.
The 3.5 acre resort was cut into the cliff on the promenade and claimed to be the biggest and most innovative indoor entertainment centre in the World, providing artificial sunshine all year round for the holiday resort. The Summerland complex

The aim was to attract British holidaymakers to the Island to compete with the threat posed by the rapid development of package holidays to Spain, that were becoming ever popular with the public.

The Summerland Resort was a spectacular success…..until it’s destruction by fire.

The Resort which was built in modern materials of concrete, steel and plastics, boasted continuous live entertainment, a plethora of restaurants and bars, an Olympic sized indoor heated swimming pool, saunas, massages and Turkish baths, artificial sunshine, a children’s entertainment and theatre,  cascading waterfalls and……..an underground disco and nightclub.

The fire is believed to have been started outside by some smokers next to a plastic kiosk adjoining the main complex building which housed the nightclub. The building was packed with holidaymakers relaxing at the time and the disco was full.

The melting plastic kiosk collapsed against the side of the main complex and rapidly ignited the building that was covered in a damp proofing bitumous material called Galbestos. The fire spread extremely rapidly through the wall cavities which contained flammable materials and quickly engulfed the flammable acrylic see through roof, which came crashing down on the 3000 people inside who were trying to escape the flames.
Many were crushed to death in the ensuing panic or injured by falling flammable debris, however the biggest amount of casualties were in the underground nightclub where the majority of bodies dead through asphixiation were piled against locked security doors.

Following the tragedy Business Insurance Companies tightened up their cover offerings for nightclub insurance, specialist insurance providers emerged and many new building regulations were put into law. Specifically, building materials of flammable quality were forbidden in construction and many health and safety regulations for nightclubs were introduced. The industry is now very well regulated and the covers offered under a nightclub insurance policy sit well with the establishments legal responsibilities of risk management.
Fortunately the measures have worked in the UK to date which has avoided such a similar nightclub disaster although that cannot be said for other places around the world……

* Rhythm Nightclub fire 23 April 1940; Natchez, Mississippi; 209 dead
* Cocoanut Grove fire 28 November 1942; Boston, Massachusetts; 492 dead
* Club Cinq-Sept fire 1 November 1970; Saint-Laurent-du-Pont, France; 146 dead
* Beverly Hills Supper Club fire 28 May 1977; Southgate, Kentucky; 165 dead
* Stardust fire 14 February 1981; Dublin, Ireland; 48 dead
* Alcalá 20 Nightclub fire 17 December 1983; Madrid, Spain; 82 dead
* HappyLand fire 25 March 1990; New York City, New York; 87 dead
* Kheyvis Nightclub fire 20 December 1993; Olivos, Buenos Aires, Argentina; 17 dead
* Ozone Disco Club fire 18 March 1996; Quezon City, Philippines; 162 dead
* Gothenburg Nightclub fire 29 October 1998; Gothenburg, Sweden; 63 dead
* Luoyang Christmas fire 25 December 2000; Luoyang, People’s Republic of China; 309 dead
* E2 Nightclub stampede 17 February 2003; Chicago, Illinois; 21 dead
* The Station Nightclub fire 20 February 2003; West Warwick, Rhode Island; 100 dead
* Cro-magnon Republic Nightclub fire 30 December 2004; Buenos Aires, Argentina; 194 dead
* Wuwang Club fire 21 September 2008; Shenzhen, People’s Republic of China; 43 dead
* Bangkok Nightclub fire 1 January 2009; Watthana, Bangkok, Thailand; 61 dead
* Lame Horse club fire 5 December 2009; Perm, Russian Federation; 149 dead

Insurance Blog thinks it is rather ironic that the Summerland fire was started by smokers outside the building, when the current policy of most nightclubs is to force smokers to outside areas.

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