Promoters Cite Poor Safety Standards, Corruption In Romania Fire

Pyrotechnics at a Goodbye To Gravity concert at Colectiv nightclub in Bucharest, Romania, Oct. 30 caused the building’s hard foam upholstery to catch fire, leading to 31 deaths and injuries and hospitalizations to more than 180 visitors, some still in critical condition. 

Photo: AP Photo

Among the 31 fatalities are the band’s guitarists, Vlad Telea and Mihai Alexandru. Identifying the other victims had been very difficult, as many didn’t carry any ID. According to Romanian news channel Stirile Pro TV, the three shareholders in the Colectiv Club Ltd. – Costin Mincu, Alin George Anastasescu and Paul Gancea – have been indicted for manslaughter and grievous bodily harm.

They were heard in court today and Anastasescu, the main shareholder, was detained.

Laurentiu Dasca, artistic director of Bucharest-based cultural organisation Elite Art Club Unesco, told Pollstar the “owners had the same issue two times before in the last three years” and were lucky nothing serious had happened on those occasions.

An animation produced by Stirile Pro TV shows how sparks caused one of Colectiv club’s four main pillars to catch fire, which quickly engulfed the entire ceiling. Smoke spread and brought on a panic with people fainting and stepping over each other, according to eyewitness reports.

Various media sources report that deaths were not only caused by burns and trampling but also by smoke inhalation. Goodbye To

Gravity announced before the concert a pyrotechnic show to celebrate the release of the band’s new album, Mantras Of War. Dasca said pyrotechnics in clubs isn’t a frequent thing, but that the CD launch as well as it being Halloween weekend prompted the band to use “light pyros” usually used for birthday cakes. While Emil Ionescu, general manager at BestMusic Romania, agrees that pryos in clubs are a rare occurrence,

Cristian Stan (New Business Executive, Sublime Romania) said it is still a common thing with many bands.

“And not only in nightclubs. We have pyro at almost every wedding, because it is a cheap stage effect that compensates the lack of production,” Stan said. “Even the band I manage [Vunk] uses pyro in all shows, including nightclubs. In our case, we use indoor fireworks, which cannot generate flames.”

All three agree that safety standards in Romanian clubs are pretty poor. A reason for this, according to Dasca, is “the corruption of local authorities, who are interested in having many clubs with late closing hours to attract many tourists to Bucharest.” Lonescu adds that most clubs don’t have safety standards whatsoever. “Clubs can function even without approval of the firefighters. That’s not normal,” he told Pollstar.

According to Stan, “nobody affords safety. Safety is expensive and it doesn’t have a good ROI. On the other hand, the rules, as always in Romania, are exaggerated and pushed to the limit to make you either close the business or give a bribe. Our legislation basically has us drown in paperwork, but once you have a long-term authorization nobody will bother you.” What is written on paper usually doesn’t match the real scenario.

“I think at least 90 percent of the nightclubs don’t respect any safety measures. For example, on paper, Colectiv was a restaurant with 80 seats, but in fact they had concerts with 500-600 people. The controls are chaotic and usually end with a small fine and the words ‘Hopefully nothing will happen because if it does…’ “They actually don’t finish the sentence because they don’t even want to imagine the consequences. I’ve never heard of any authority checking the over-selling and over-crowding at any nightclub,” said Stan.

“Many clubs, especially in the Old Center of Bucharest, are not functioning according to the minimal safety rules. We are talking small theatres and cafés as well,” Dasca said.

Stan predicts a lot of nightclubs will be closed, because they cannot comply with the safety measures. The prime minister has asked for controls “at the maximum legal rigidity.” “Traditionally this is [nothing more than paying lip service. I feel that even now they’re only doing it for the PR and not for the safety. The prices in nightclubs will probably rise, which in a pretty poor country means that they’ll have less clients,” Stan said.

In fact, on Nov. 2 three nightclubs announced they were already closing or upgrading their facilities.

Andrei Sosa announced the permanent closure of his Expirat club in Burcharest, which has only one exit door.

“From 2003 I have put the lives of thousands in danger,” Sosa said.

The indoor concert sector in particular admits more people into its venues than the law permits. Clubs that officially hold 120 people sometimes allow up to 300, Stan explains. If these clubs shut down, smaller bands will have to move into concert halls, were they will struggle to sell enough tickets to fill the venue. Andreea Andreescu, communications manager at, told Pollstar “that we’re looking at the authorities with consternation as they realize that the problem is much bigger than nightclubs.

“TV channels have already announced that there will be controls in the following weeks in all venues that involve big crowds – malls, cinemas, theatres and nightclubs – to verify their systems and procedures in case of an emergency. The law is elusive enough to offer a lot on interpretations.”

Added Stan: “In my opinion, the problem is not so much the use of the fireworks, but the construction of the venue. It’s unacceptable that pyros located at around 4m from the pillar can generate a fire that expands to the ceiling in 30 seconds and becomes uncontrollable. It means that a cigarette can do it as well. The club didn’t use any anti-fire materials, as stated by the company that worked on the renovation. It was 35 percent cheaper like this.”