7 November 1997
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Broadcasting, Culture and Sport
and Panel on Security
Licensing of Karaoke Establishments
This paper informs Members of the proposed licensing scheme for karaoke establishments.
2.Following the fire at a karaoke in Tsim Sha Tsui in early 1997, an inter-departmental working group comprising the Security Bureau, Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Bureau, Urban Services Department (USD), Regional Services Department (RSD), Buildings Department(BD), Fire Services Department (FSD), Home Affairs Department (HAD) and the Police, was set up to consider lessons learnt and co-ordinate plans to improve fire safety in karaoke establishments.
Existing Control on Karaoke Establishments
3.At present, there are no specific control requirements over karaoke establishments, other than those basic building safety and fire safety requirements applicable to the buildings in which they are located. However, as most of the karaoke establishments in the territory also provide food and liquor within the premises, they are subject to some form of licensing control in regard to health, building and fire safety -
- if the karaoke business is conducted in a place licensed as a General Restaurant or a Light Refreshment Restaurant under the Public Health and Municipal Services Ordinance; and
- if the karaoke business is conducted within a club registered under the Clubs (Safety of Premises) Ordinance.
4.If a karaoke establishment does not operate as any of the above, it can operate with just a Business Registration Certificate.
5.The working group has concluded that the best way to effect control on karaoke establishments is to introduce a statutory licensing system to impose additional safety requirements on such establishments.
The Proposed Licensing Scheme
6.It is proposed that all establishments providing karaoke facilities to which the general public is admitted, with or without payment of a charge, should be brought under the control of the licensing scheme. Karaoke establishments not operated in conjunction with a restaurant licence or a Certificate of Compliance under the Clubs (Safety of Premises) Ordinance will be required to obtain a specific licence. Those establishments operation in premises holding restaurant licences will need to obtain written permission endorsed on the restaurant licence. Clubs operating karaoke activities will also be required to meet the safety standards.
The Licensing Requirements
7.The proposed licensing scheme will cover health, building safety, fire safety and public safety requirements. The authorities will require karaokes established after the implementation of the licensing scheme to comply with the new requirements. As for existing karaoke establishments, the authorities will require them to upgrade their standards in phases to lessen the impact.
(A) Fire Safety Requirements
8.Depending on the layout of the premises, the following fire safety requirements will be imposed where appropriate -
- alarm bells at individual cubicles;
- audio-visual advisory system which can interrupt the musical system in case of alarm;
- low level directional signs capable of maintaining indication of exit directions in darkness;
- exit routes indication plan for each individual cubicle; and
- automatic cut-off device for mechanical ventilating systems.
(B) Building Structure Requirements
9.The following are BD's initial proposed requirements -
- assessment of means of escape provisions;
- minimum width of internal corridor to be restricted;
- direct distance and travel distance to staircases to be restricted;
- emergency door as an alternative means of escape to be provided to individual cubicles;
- fire resisting separation between cubicles and internal corridors to be provided; and
- premises to be structurally suitable.
10.As the karaoke trade has raised some concerns about the practical difficulties in meeting the proposed requirements, BD is now giving further consideration to the building safety requirements, in the light of the comments received. BD is also researching into the fire safety code on karaokes and similar establishments in Japan, with a view to working out a set of practicable building safety requirements for karaokes.
(C) Health Requirements
11.The following health requirements will be imposed by USD and RSD on karaoke establishments -
- provision of toilet and ablution facilities;
- adequacy of fresh air supply to patrons; and
- fitting-out of ventilation system on the premises.
(D) Public Safety Requirements
12.It is proposed that the Police should be consulted on the suitability of the applicant for a licence and the premises to be used as a karaoke establishment unless they are already covered by a liquor licence in which case the Police would have been consulted prior to the issue or renewal of the licence.
Enforcement and Sanctions
13.A new legislation will be drawn up providing the licensing authority power of licensing and enforcing the provisions of the legislation. The legislation will provide the Director of Urban Services, Director of Regional Services, Director of Fire Services, Director of Buildings, Commissioner of Police and Director of Home Affairs the power of entry to inspect the premises and enforce the legislation.
14.The USD and RSD consulted the Provisional Urban Council and the Provisional Regional Council on the licensing proposal in September 1997. The two councils have endorsed the proposal and agreed to be the future licensing authorities.
15.Penalties will be imposed for premises operating as karaoke establishment without a licence or permission. It is proposed that the licensing authority may apply to court for a Prohibition Order to prohibit the use of any premises as a karaoke establishment and a Closure Order to close any karaoke establishment in breach of the licensing requirements.
16.An exemption period of 12 months will be given to the operators of existing karaoke establishments to carry out the necessary upgrading work of fire safety measures and apply for the requisite licence or written permission.
17.The USD and RSD will soon issue a consultation paper to invite comments, particularly from the restaurant and karaoke trades, fire safety and building safety professionals and club operators, on the licensing proposal. The consultation period will last for three months.
31 October 1997