Allegedly overcrowded nightclub challenges police headcount

Madrid's Moma was found by officers to have as many as 1,510 people in it, despite legal limit of just 298

The Moma nightclub in Madrid.
The Moma nightclub in Madrid.SAMUEL SÁNCHEZ

The proprietors of Moma, a nightclub in downtown Madrid that was evacuated by the police last weekend for exceeding its legal capacity, have denied that there were as many as 1,510 people in the establishment at the time. On Tuesday, a statement was issued to the effect that the police must have miscounted. Moma's owners also complained that its maximum capacity of 298 does not properly reflect the 485 square meters the nightclub covers and its four emergency exits. According to its own calculations, Moma can hold 800 people without any risk.

"The Madrid Arena has affected the sector greatly," said Moma's lawyer, Manuel Migoya, in reference to a crush in which five people were killed at a macro-party. "Our establishment is listed as a type three and have limited capacity to 298, but even with many more people there is no risk."

The evacuation took place at 4.30am on Sunday morning when the police arrived at the club and discovered that capacity had been exceeded. According to witnesses, it took revelers an hour and a half to abandon the establishment.

The police have accused Moma of a serious infraction, which could carry a fine of up to 300,000 euros or the closure of the establishment for a period between six months and two years.

Moma's owners expressed their discontent with the information released by City Hall and said they had studied the security footage. Two employees recounted the exit of people from the club and concluded there were 1,050 inside, which represents "a large drop," on the police's figure. "The police made a mistake by counting the people that were in the cafeteria, which is an adjoining establishment but that has nothing to with the main lounge," said Migoya.

Moma's owners claim the club's capacity has been reduced for "city zoning reasons," citing the example of another establishment they own in the Sanchinarro suburb of Madrid, which consists of 124 square meters but has a capacity of 200. "Due to its type-three status, the club should have a capacity of 800 people. All of the security measures are in place," said Alberto Lombardo, one of the company's owners. "It is we who control the capacity so that there are no problems. Furthermore, few people today can pay the 20 euros it costs to get in. This has converted our premises into a place for an adult public to which businessmen, athletes and politicians come," Lombardo added.

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