City Council members on Tuesday lifted a requirement for sprinklers at clubs and restaurants that some operators, including former Mayor Jon Kinsey, said would put them out of business.
The council approved an amendment to an ordinance passed earlier when the fire chief and fire marshal at the time had pressed for the sprinkler requirement.
Travis McDonough, the mayor's chief of staff, said the current fire chief and fire marshal approve the change. He said since the original ordinance was passed that the national fire code no longer requires such sprinkler systems.
Mr. Kinsey, owner of the Chattanooga Choo Choo, said the requirement would cause the popular Track 29 club operated by his son, Adam Kinsey, at the Choo Choo's former ice skating rink to have to shut down.
He said, "There is nothing more important to us than the safety of our patrons," but he said other steps can be taken to insure that safety.
Mr. Kinsey said Track 29 is in a concrete and steel building.
He told the City Council, "We cannot afford to put in sprinklers. We are not going to do that. There are other ways to address safety."
Michael Alfano, owner of the Comedy Catch for 26 of the 28 years it has been operating near the Brainerd Tunnel, also said he could not come up with the $70,000 needed for the sprinkler system. There would be other expense with the water company, he said.
Lamar Partridge said his family cannot afford the $50,000 expense of adding a sprinkler system at Lamar's Restaurant and Lounge on MLK Boulevard. He said the firm has the oldest liquor license in the city.
The owner of Mocha Restaurant and Music Lounge told a similar story.