Friday, 25 July 2014

There's no outdoor nightclub at the "Zarzuela" Hippodrome this summer. The event managers made their decision after a human avalanche (31 May 2014) during the first party of the season. That night, the capital almost witnessed a new "Arena" disaster when around 4,000 clubbers gathered around the venue to attend a performance of the Dutch DJ "Bakermat". Only swift Police intervention and the removal of the barriers that controlled the access, prevented a tragedy, according to several witnesses.

The incident was so serious that those responsible for "Naturact", concessionaire of the southern part of the Hippodrome, panicked and decided to cancel the clubbing session. Their intention was to host on the terrace Friday and Saturday events to the delight of young people. 

"We are not interested in having the Hippodrome full of kids under 18  who are dedicated to getting drunk in the car park and do not spend anything inside. Not our type of clientele and we do not want more trouble," according to the oficial spokesperson. They had subcontracted "Unievento" (a company specialized in nightlife) to ensure full capacity all throughout the summer and cover the annual fee of 350,000 euros [£290K]. "Selling soft-drinks at a horse race track  is really complicated so they decided to hire us. Bearing in mind the profit margin on drinks is always huge, "emphasizes Unievento representative.

Moral blow to the competition

Expectations were high. More than 800 club promoters were enrolled on this project and Unievento even decided to hire the well known DJ "Bakermat" in order to guarantee maximum capacity on their opening night and debilitate their competition's morale. Advance tickets were sold like hotcakes and the area surrounding the Racetrack became a "macrobotellón" [drunken multitude] hours before the show even started. This same problem arose for the same reason that led to the death of five teenagers at the Madrid Arena on November 1, 2012.

Thousands of teenagers who had bought tickets, far from entering the venue at 10 pm, waited outside drinking until 2 am, when the main Dj was due on. 

"That's how these kids roll. They get drunk outside because they can't afford drinks inside and then want to get in last minute," said a nightclub manager used to this target market.

It was at precisely two o'clock in the morning when most attendees converged at the only two access points that were enabled and started forming 'two monumental queues' a witness said. Event organizers did not anticipate that this type of customer (18 year olds) who usually wait until the last minute to get in to see their idol, drink in hand.

Fights and people on the motorway

Seeing the queues were not advancing, attendees got impatient and pushing began creating an avalanche of about 400 people, which required the immediate intervention of the National and Municipal Police forces. "It kicked off. Riots, fights and drunk people walking by the A-6 motorway. The Police had to cut off the highway," said an eyewitness to the disturbance but that did not stop the DJ playing until 4am.

Unievento acused Naturact of failing to provide all the necessary security needed for an event this size. "They were responsible for planning and it ended up being a disaster because we were not given the necessary manpower to control so many people," summed up one of the owners of Unievento. He also said that the barriers were 'not appropriate' for this type of event and noted that there were only two points to access the site, "insufficient", according to several experts.

Most official reports soften what happened. According to the Emergency services "in the early hours on 1 June, reports came in warning of a possible avalanche at the entrance to the club on the Racetrack. On arrival, we found that there had been riots caused by a group of people who had tried to sneak in. Several ambulances attended together with the Municipal Police."

Ambulance crews attended the injured for slight bruises. Given the large number of people there at the time, they decided to keep two ambulances on site, in the morning they only returned to action to address youths suffering from alcohol intoxication.

The Municipal Police reported what had happened due to the 'disturbances at the entrance" and the Hippodrome nightclub now has three sanctions pending for performing this Dj event, which had been authorized by the City Council.

One of them is a potential breach of compliance schedule, which is handling the License Management Agency Consistory. The fine, mild, could amount to 4,500 euros [£3750], according to municipal sources. The other two dealt with by the Security Area, were opened for alleged deficiencies in the control of the internal security of property and access control. In this case these are serious offenses and fines range between 4,500 and 60,000 euros [up to £50K].

Meanwhile, the Racetrack owners say the move not to open the club night on Fridays and Saturdays, as it did last summer, is "a decision by the leaseholder" but say Racetrack Nights held on Thursdays will continue ad normal during the months of July and August. The concert schedule will also remain intact, as reported from Naturact who do not regret their decision to close the club. "That night was only problematic with 4,000 attendees and turning over only 7,000 euros [£5833], so better to cut our losses" claimed the company.

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