Sprinkler ordinance tabled for a week - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Sprinkler ordinance tabled for a week

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) - Night club owners have another week to wonder how the City Council will vote on a controversial sprinkler ordinance.

In February, City Council passed a stricter fire code ordinance, requiring night clubs to install sprinkler systems by the end of 2013.  Business owners say the ordinance too broadly defines what is a night club, and the expensive systems could put them out of business.

A two-month moratorium was placed on the issue, giving business owners time to prove the hardship.

Those club owners came to Tuesday's meeting to defend their position, complete with facts and figures and an attorney in tow, but the wait continues.

After two months, the topic arose of a new ordinance that would amend the city's fire code for which businesses are considered night clubs.

The City Council chose to defer the vote on the new ordinance for another week.

So club owners will spend another week on edge, wondering how council members will vote. Some say the fate of their livelihood hinges on that vote.

"If it passes, I get to retire the next day," says Walt Marler, owner of Walt's Fireside Restaurant. "It will be the last day I'm in the business."

Marler says the if the council passes the ordinance demanding a sprinkler system for night clubs, he'll have 20 employees without jobs. That's why he and others have paid an attorney to battle the cause.

"Here's the problem, why night clubs?" asks attorney Jerry Tidwell. "Does everything bad happen at 11 o'clock?"

The Fire Marshal says the fire code that calls for a sprinkler system is about public safety, but these club owners are hoping there's a way around it.

"Were not asking not to be safe or comply," says Tidwell. "These things would cost $50,000- $75,000 and I don't see anyone lining up to pay that, most of these people don't own the buildings."

They do still pay taxes; a point club owners will drive home the point with council members.

Tidwell says if ten clubs close as a result of the sprinkler ordinance, it would knock out just over $357,000 in federal taxes and $1.7 million in state and local taxes.

"There are some good operators in Chattanooga and they've been around all the suburbs are wet and they would love to have some of us in the community paying taxes," says Marler.

The ordinance would give the club owners until 2013 to install a sprinkler system.

Some say since they've been complying for years, they should be grandfathered in under the new code.

The Council is scheduled to vote Tuesday April 26th.

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