UPDATE: City Council agrees to push back fire code vote
By Amy Morrow
Eyewitness News Anchor/Reporter
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) --Small business owners say they've won a small victory in the battle over a city ordinance that would force them to install sprinkler systems in nightclubs.
Those sprinkler systems aren't cheap and some say, without a victory, they may be forced to go out of business.
"We need a moratorium on part of the code while we try to resolve the problems," says Council member Jack Benson.
And that's exactly what happened.
Five Chattanooga City Council Members agreed, to give small business owners two months to offer hard facts. Numbers that will show how tough it would be to comply with the proposed ordinance that would force night clubs to install a sprinkler system in their establishments.
"We now have two months to prove to the City Council the economic impact and how it will effect small businesses, and the city," says Michael Alfano.
Alfano, owner owns The Comedy Catch and Giggles Grill, says to fork over $100,000 to install a sprinkler system would do nothing but drown his business.
"Don't think it's fair, I hope the City will think about it first and about the economics of it, how many jobs lost, how many places would be empty," says Alfano.
"What I'm trying to say there is no equivalent to the sprinkler system," says Chattanooga Fire Marshal James Whitmire.
Whitmire says the fire code that calls for a sprinkler system is about public safety and some Council Members agree. Alfano says the national code would "grandfather in" existing clubs. Some still ask why only nightclubs?
"There's no sprinkler in the Memorial Auditorium, there's no sprinkler in the Tivoli, it is less likely to burn because they don't sell alcohol, I don't think so," says Walt Marler.
Marler owns Walt's Firehouse Restaurant, he says the cost of a sprinkler system would certainly shut down his business and leave his 20 employees without jobs. He says now there's hope that they can convince Council Members to give this plan the boot.
"They're talking about implementing this in 2013. The day of implementation would be my last day. We'd have an auction and sell everything off," says Marler.
"I haven't come up with a plan of exactly what I'm gonna do, just thought of closing scares, me it's my livelihood, my business," says Alfano.
The business owners have two months to construct their own studies and present to the council the economic impact of the sprinkler decision. Council will vote again after the studies are complete.