Manila fire causes disco phobia

By ABE DE RAMOS  |  March 20, 1996
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MANILA, March 20 -- The fire that razed a Philippine disco and killed at least 150 people one day ago kept Manila's party goers at home Wednesday, leaving businesses feeling the financial aftershocks of the trauma.

Night club operators and managers said they experienced a severe drop in attendance the night after the Ozone Disco Pub in suburban Quezon city was reduced to ashes. One club, Jaloux Discotheque, reported an attendance of only 30, down from the usual 150.

Profits from drinks dropped from the usual 30,000 pesos ($1,145) to less than 4,000 pesos ($152). Owners of night spots in Quezon City said they expect their business to lag in the coming weeks.

'For sure, our clients got scared,' said Aileen Garcia, an accountant at the Heatwave Disco Pub. 'Less than 40 percent of our normal patrons went here last night.'

Parking lots at the popular Heartbeat Mega Disco were deserted save for two cars.

'The shiver and the fright was still there,' the club's wine supplier said. 'The entire city was still in mourning so the low attendance was somewhat expected.'

At Club Kudos in the financial district of Makati, general manager Keiph Garcia also said he expected attendance to dip dramatically in the wake of the tragedy, the worst of its kind in the world since 1977.

'We'll see this Friday and Saturday if attendance would really be affected by the tragedy,' Garcia said, shaking his head. 'If it does, it does not augur well for the business.'

The majority of victims in the Ozone fire were high school students who took advantage of the disco's 50 percent discount promotion on entrance fees and drinks to celebrate graduation. The Philippine school year ends in March and begins in June.

Initial reports by investigators showed the disco did not have adequate fire exits, and authorities were contemplating filing criminal charges against Ozone's owners.

The tragedy prompted the government to inspect discos, movie houses and other entertainment centers in the capital city.

The burning of the 192-square-yard (160-square-meter), two-level disco was the world's worst nightclub fire since 1977, when 164 people died at the Beverly Hills Supper Club at Southgate, Kentucky.

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