The nightclub tragedy that killed 21 patrons in Chicago last weekend has been a wake-up call to partiers the world over. Check out the reaction on any of the local dance music Internet message boards and you'll find that the same conditions that turned the stampede deadly on the south side of Chicago exist here.
Before this you might have felt uncomfortable in a packed club but you'd still keep going out week after week. Everybody knows their safety is being endangered, but the general attitude is one of resignation to the realities of the club economy. Often promoters can't even break even until capacity has been exceeded, and partiers aren't too receptive to increased cover charges and decreased guest lists.
The truth is, every single club in Toronto exceeds its capacity limit at least some of the time. Some have been known to double their legal capacity regularly, which only becomes apparent when the authorities are on a crackdown spree. Suddenly, venues feel strangely empty, even though the lineups outside are huge. Once the blitz is over, it's business as usual.
So how do club owners get away with it? Some of the worst offenders have paid-duty police outside every week, which leads many to suspect some type of payoff.
Staff at a few clubs have admitted on the condition of anonymity that they'll use the total capacity of a multi-level venue to squeeze more people into the main room. Lots of clubs have had their licences suspended because of overcrowding, but a few months later things are back to normal.
Not all the blame rests on the owners' heads, though. Corrupt bouncers have been known to slip favoured patrons past the door, pocketing their bribes and cutting the promoter and owner out of the picture. Partiers themselves share some of the blame. They're used to packed rooms and aren't too eager to venture into an event that isn't rammed to the rafters.
When you're out with your friends enjoying yourself, the last thing you want to think about is the possibility of disaster.
Look around, though, and try to picture what would happen if there were a sudden rush for the exit at any of your favourite parties.
True, paranoia about terrorist chemical attacks may have fuelled the panic at the E2. And many allegations have been made about the conditions at the club, but the disturbing reality is that none of these are very shocking or unfamiliar.