City Council proposes new fire code for "nightclubs" - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City Council proposes new fire code for "nightclubs"

By Antwan Harris
Eyewitness News Reporter

Chattanooga, TN (WRCB) -- Comedy Catch owner Michael Alfano said the fire code set to go into effect in 2012 would force him out of business.

He says a rough evaluation for a new sprinkler system would be close to $130,000. That's a chunk of change, that's no laughing matter, he says.

"I know it's a public safety issue, but it would be cost prohibitive," says Alfano.

A new business like the Honest Pint downtown has installed the system costing them about $60,000.

Councilman Jack Benson said he is concerned about safety, but also businesses bottom line.

"It's very important, but so is the economy and we have to get a balance between the two," says Benson.

For James Whitmire, The City of Chattanooga Fire Marshall, it's a matter of public safety, though he said he understands the burden.

"We are in the business of fire prevention. Life safety is our concern but I understand it's costly. However, safety is our number one concern," says Whitmire.

Alfano said while he agrees his patrons should be protected, he also said losing his business of 20 plus years, will be a blow to the community.

"It would be a loss of 25 years of tax base. It would be a an empty building on Brainerd Road. 12-16 employees would be out of work," says Alfano.

The ordinance would go into effect December 2012.

Business owners hope to reach a compromise as this issue will be discussed at the next council meeting.

Part of that compromise would be to raise the number of occupants to 150 instead of 100.

Some business owners are even asking for a tax break for installation.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, not even 2 percent of fires are in restaurants.

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