70,000 Nightclub Patrons in U.K. at Risk for Asbestos Disease

It was a little over a year ago that the public found out that the Atlantis Arena, a popular nightclub in the coastal resort town of Yarmouth, England, posed an asbestos hazard–and that the directors of the club knew about the danger and did nothing to protect patrons or employees.
On the surface, it seems odd that a place such as a nightclub should pose an asbestos hazard at all. Nonetheless, reports going back as far as 2004 indicate that there were “piles” of asbestos dust on the floors of the facility. The club, originally known as the Tower Ballroom, had been closed down and underwent renovations totaling £5 million (about US $10 million). However, it appeared later that efforts at asbestos abatement were “superficial” at best. Despite the recommendation of an asbestos specialist, the operators continued to operate the club for almost a year, until a borough inspector carried out an examination of the building and found “obvious dust of decaying asbestos lying on the floor.” With hundreds of patrons dancing and vibrations caused by the elevated volume of the music, the danger was obvious. Moreover, the asbestos was described as the “second most potent type of asbestos,” referring to the amphibole variety implicated in mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The inspector was so terrified at what he found that he returned to his office and ordered the club closed at once. Towering Leisure Ltd., the management company that owned and operated the Atlantis Arena, ultimately paid a fine of £90,000 (approximately US $180,000). The prosecuting attorney in the case said that the company had chosen “profit over safety”–an all-too-common story when it comes to corporate behavior and asbestos issues. Ultimately, the company spent £300,000 (US $600,000) removing all the asbestos, cutting into their profit margin so deeply that the firm’s bank ultimately appointed an administrator to run the nightclub. Located on a street running along the beach, the Atlantis Arena has since reopened and is considered by some local residents to be the “in” place for a Saturday night. However, 57 employees and 70,000 patrons who passed through the club’s door between 2004 and 2006 will have to live with the terrifying possibility of contracting an asbestos-related cancer or other disease for the rest of their lives.