Two dancers were badly injured after falling off a wet bar while working at Coyote Ugly Saloon in Cardiff city centre, a court heard.
Karina Sparks suffered deep cuts to her shoulder and chest after landing on a wine glass, while Brittany Askew fractured her spine and had to wear a back brace.
Speaking at Cardiff Magistrates’ Court , District Judge Shomon Khan said he had “not had the pleasure” of seeing the film, but noted the unique selling point of the venue was members of staff and customers dancing on the bar.
The court heard the incidents happened at Coyote Ugly Saloon on St Mary Street in Cardiff in February, May and September 2017.
Clive Pursey, prosecuting, said Ms Sparks suffered “deep lacerations” to her right shoulder and breast after losing her footing while dancing on the bar and landing on a customer’s wine glass.
Ms Sparks had to have 12 stitches to her wounds. She went back to the venue after receiving medical treatment in hospital and was sent home. She formally returned to work on September 28, 2017 – five days after her fall.
South Wales Police reported the matter to the health and safety team on October 4, 2017.
Investigators reviewed the accident book and found another employee, Ms Askew, had suffered a fracture to her back after slipping on the bar while dancing.
Prosecutors said Ms Askew fell on the bar on May 25, 2017, suffering a fracture to her vertebrae. She was off work for four months.
She said she fractured her 11th vertebrae, which collapsed into her 12th vertebrae and she had to wear a back brace for 12 weeks.
Ms Askew told investigators it was common at the time for bar staff to be allowed to drink alcohol while on shift. She added dancers, known as Coyotes, regularly threw pitchers of water over each other during certain dance routines.
Prosecutors said bar staff and managers would often spray staff with soda syphons at the main bar “having little regard to the risk of slips and falls”.
Ms Askew had previously fallen down steps at the back of the bar, which were wet and had no handrail, in February 2017.
The court heard the company fitted handrails to the main bar steps and stopped serving drinks in stemmed wine glasses following the incidents.
Health and safety officer Sarah Swaysland visited the venue unannounced on October 10, 2017.
She advised manager Christoper Young the risk assessment was not “suitable and sufficient” as it failed to consider risks of employees and others dancing on the bar counter.
The court heard there was an “informal rule” of: “No more than 12 people on the bar at one time.” But the safe working load was was not known.
Mr Young told the investigator there was a “loose dress code”. Dancers were supposed to wear cowboy boots with rubber soles, but that was not documented.
He added customers were not allowed on the bar while wearing stiletto heels, or if they were thought to be drunk, which was monitored by the door staff.
Mr Pursey said the risks were “foreseeable”.
Swansea Audio Limited admitted three offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, including failing to report the injury sustained by Ms Askew.
The company also admitted failing to make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees, namely dancing on the bar counter and performing dance routines with water.
Oliver Powell, defending, said the company brought in health and safety consultants following the incidents.
District Judge Khan asked why director Stephen Lewis did not attend the hearing. Mr Powell said he attended the last heading, but this time was in Singapore where the company is looking to expand.
It already has venues in Cardiff, Swansea, Manchester and Birmingham, with the concept originally coming from the USA.
Mr Powell added the director was “embarrassed” as he thought the hearing was on December 17 and could not get a flight back in time.
He stressed the company had no previous convictions and cooperated fully with the investigation. He accepted: “There should have been a specific risk assessment that was much more robust.”
The judge said the director’s failure to attend the hearing “undermined” his statement about how seriously he takes health and safety, adding: “It is difficult to think of what could be more important than him being here to listen to my remarks.”
District Judge Khan said he did not want to sound like “the fun police”, but: “Health and safety has to be at the forefront of the mind of any business.”
He said: “There was a culture of fun and health and safety got put to one side. To put it simply, the customer experience was placed far above the need for safety of staff.
“Overall I accept that lessons have been learnt by the company.”
District Judge Khan imposed a £66,000 fine and ordered the company to pay £3,315 prosecution costs, plus a £170 surcharge. They will have three months to pay.
A spokesman for Cardiff council said: “The Shared Regulatory Service takes all health and safety matters very seriously. The council will act on any intelligence provided and pursue these matters through the court.”