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Mass. Clubs Resisting Sprinkler Law

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — More than one year after the Massachusetts Legislature ordered sprinkler systems installed in bars and nightclubs, owners of scores of restaurants and clubs are appealing the costly mandate. Many are saying their businesses are being wrongly classified as nightclubs.

A total of 113 establishments, including Knights of Columbus halls and other fraternal organizations, have appealed fire department orders requiring them to install sprinklers, according to the Boston Globe. The state board has already issued formal decisions in 12 cases, reversing the orders in six.

The mandate for bars and clubs to install sprinkler systems came after the February 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in Rhode Island that killed 100 and injured 200 others. Forty of the dead were from Massachusetts.

Many of the club and restaurant owners are disputing their classification as nightclubs, saying that in terms of safety, the nature of the activities in their establishments is more important than how many people can fit inside.

The law, which relies to local fire officials to check compliance, set no deadlines to decide which establishments have to put in sprinklers. As a result, said state Fire Marshal Stephen Coan, it remains unclear how many establishments must install sprinklers or even how many fire departments have finished identifying establishments that fall under the law.

In Lawrence, Mass., Coan, Mayor Michael J. Sullivan and Fire Chief Joseph L. Marquis held a press conference at a private club for current and retired firefighters, who decided to lead by example and install sprinklers before the 2007 deadline.

“We don’t need anything like what happened in Rhode Island to happen here in Massachusetts,” Marquis told the Globe.

The firefighters spend $24,000 to install the sprinklers in the club and expect to spend up to $10,000 more to hook up the system to the water main.

“This has strapped us for sure,” club treasurer Al Pomerleau told the paper. “We had to dip pretty deep into our savings to do this.”

The legislation called for the state to investigate making low-cost loans available to business or building owners to pay for the sprinkler installation, but no such loans are currently available. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers