Police from the Tel Aviv district shut down 10 nightclubs on New Year's Eve, most for violating limitations on the permitted maximum occupancy. Other alleged violations were committed as well.

The Rival 9 nightclub was shut down for 15 days following a stabbing on the premises, while the G-Spot club was closed down after minors were apparently sold alcohol.

Yaron Trask, an owner of The Block, which was shut for 30 days by administrative order for overcrowding, said the closure was a death sentence from an economic standpoint.

"No one wanted to hear what we had to say," he complained. "They went over to the deejay stand and ordered the music shut off. Initially the partiers didn't accept this and asked us to keep on going, but we stopped immediately. The law nowadays doesn't make sense. From a legal standpoint, what is allowed is a square meter per [occupant]. Those familiar with Tel Aviv nightlife know that under [the enforcement] of such a law, all of the parties will become sad ones."

The police issued the following statement on the matter: "Inspection of licenses at clubs is carried out frequently. Before New Year's Eve, club owners were warned not to violate the law. We will continue to carry out inspections of clubs in accordance with the law to protect the safety of the public."

Huldai on the scene

Five minutes before police arrived at The Block, Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai had been on the scene to witness city nightlife up close. The police contend that The Block had 300 revelers that night, despite the law permitting only 170.

At Barzilai, which was also closed down that night, it is alleged the club was hosting 400 guests instead of the legal limit of 152. One owner of Barzilai, Yaron Danoch, said yesterday that the police do this every year. "It wasn't too crowded," he said. "It's not as if [the police] sat and counted. From their standpoint, they came to shut [the place] down." He added that he appealed the three-day closure order to the court, which will hear the case today.

Deputy Tel Aviv Mayor Assaf Zamir said that while he cannot defend clubs which violate safety regulations, the strict occupancy standards are a problem. He noted that standards found here are more strict than prevailing regulations in the United States and Europe, and that he is pursuing a change in regulations from one square meter per occupant to 0.65 square meters.

Some nightclub owners called the police conduct a publicity stunt and say customers are now demanding refunds as well.