City council eases fire sprinkler ordinance for businesses - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City council eases fire sprinkler ordinance for businesses

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

After years of debate, the Chattanooga City Council unanimously passed an ordinance that will free most bar and club owners from installing sprinkler systems inside their businesses.

The mandate was put in place by the previous council, and was set to take effect at the end of the year.

But business owners, who have been doing business in Chattanooga for decades say it would shut them down.

Channel 3 took a look at the compromise that those owners say is two years in the making.

"When you have costs like that, that add no additional safety factor and threaten the existence of the business it's important that you step forward," said Lamar, Partridge, Owner of Lamar's Restaurant.

Lamar Partridge and several other long-standing business owners stepped forward Tuesday asking city leaders to reconsider a sprinkler ordinance.

"Don't hurt small businesses. It's hard to start up as it is," said Sharon Kelly, Owner of Mocha

 "To be expected to come up with that kind of money in two years is just impossible for small businesses," said Michael Alfano, Owner of Comedy Catch.

"It doesn't make sense to me, that music or telling jokes makes something dangerous. When you have the Tivoli and Memorial without sprinklers," said Jon Kinsey, Former Chattanooga Mayor.

The ordinance, passed in 2011 by the former city council, required everything from sports bars to restaurants with live entertainment to install sprinkler systems by December 31 of this year.

The systems cost between $50,000 - $70,000.

"We were told that this was best practices for cities, that we had been negligent in not looking at this," said Carol Berz, District 6.

But a change in national fire code standards paved the way for changes to the ordinance, proposed by councilman Chris Anderson.

"The marshal and the chief have been consulted and are okay with this," said Travis McDonough, Chief of Staff.

Business owners say they are already inspected two to three times a year and have safety measures in place.

"Smoke detectors, heat detectors, emergency lighting, clearly marked fire exits," said Alfano.

They say that should be enough. The council agrees. In an unanimous vote, council members loosened the ordinance, saving businesses like Lamar Partridge's from the added cost.

"What's important is the council is willing to listen," said Partridge.

Tuesday was the first reading. The city council will have to vote on the measure one more time to pass it fully. It passed Tuesday without opposition.

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