City Sprinkler Legislation Hearing Today
posted by April 2 at 12:03 PMon
Legislation extending the deadline for clubs to install expensive sprinkler systems will get a hearing in the state senate’s Ways and Means Committee at 1:30 this afternoon. The legislation would push the current December 2007 deadline for installing sprinklers back to December 2009, giving clubs two more years to install the systems. Club owners say they need extra time because only a handful of contractors do sprinkler installations, and because they need time to negotiate with landlords over who will pay for the systems.
In addition to extending the sprinkler deadline, the legislation, HB 1811 (and its companion bill, SB 5832) would change the definition of “nightclub” to encompass only clubs with open floors (no seating) of 350 square feet or more. That would eliminate smaller clubs and clubs with fixed seats. The bill would also provide a business and occupation tax break to anyone who has to install a sprinkler system, including club owners who lease their space; the break would amount to half the cost of installing a system. Tim Hatley, lobbyist for the Seattle Nightlife and Music Association, says he’s optimistic that the bill will get out of Ways and Means today, the deadline for bills to make it out of committee and onto the Senate floor.
Sprinkler systems are expensive—anywhere from several thousand dollars for the simplest installations to $70,000 or more for large venues like the Showbox. The cost varies depending on the size of the venue (the larger the place, the more pipes have to be installed) and whether the club has a four-inch water main (upgrading from a two-inch main costs $26,000.) Many club owners say they may have to shut down if the deadline is not extended.