Three Edmonton bars have been hit with charges after packing in huge crowds to watch the Olympic gold medal hockey game in February.

Thousands of Edmontonians made the early trek out to catch the Canada vs. Sweden game at local bars, restaurants and clubs, which were given special permission to open at 4:30 a.m. on Feb. 23.

At the time, police and fire marshals toured the bars to make sure everyone was following the rules.

Three were found to have bigger crowds than permitted, said Russell Croome, the Deputy Chief of Public Safety with Edmonton’s Fire Rescue Services.

This morning, two of the bars pleaded guilty to overcrowding under the Safety Codes Act.

Central Social Hall was fined $10,000 for squeezing in 95 extra people above its 310-person capacity while

Hudson’s Downtown was fined $6,000 for being 57 people over its 249-person capacity. It was the second overcrowding offence for both bars.

A third bar, the Canadian Brewhouse, pleaded guilty to similar charges earlier this summer and was fined $7,000. This was the first offence on record for the bar.

Russell Croome

Deputy Chief of Public Safety Russell Croome says overcrowding can lead to major issues in the event of an emergency. (CBC)

“We think that the fines were considerable and send a strong message to the industry that public safety is very important and we need to manage all these risks,” said Croome, who said that the bars’ previous safety records were also considered in doling out the fines.

Overcrowding can lead to disaster in the event of an emergency because it is much more difficult for people to evacuate a packed bar in a safe and efficient manner, and big crowds can also lead to crushing or trampling injuries.

And while he said it can be difficult for security and management to keep track of bar numbers, Croome said it is a necessary to follow the rules despite the one-off nature of the Olympic final.

“We do rely heavily on the security guards at the door to keep track of how many people are coming and going. The gold medal game, for sure, people would have arrived and are definitely not going to leave when it’s such an exciting event.”

“What [bar staff] probably didn’t recognize in that morning is that the same risk is in the morning as it is in the afternoon, as it is in the evening – so I think that might have not been properly factored into their decision.”