Portland nightclub sprinkler ordinance upheld
An Oregon administrative law judge has upheld Portland's authority to require sprinkler systems in nightclubs.
The ruling was issued Alison Greene Webster, the senior administrative law judge in the state Office of Administrative Hearings, on Thursday.
The Nov. 30 ruling dismisses a challenge to Portland's authority by the director of the Department of Consumer and Business Services, through the department's Building Codes Division. The director threatened to fine Portland $20,000 if the City Council did not repeal the requirement.
Webster ruled the director lacks the legal authority to impose such a fine.
The council first adopted the requirement as an ordinance on Sept. 11, 2013. It was the first request Commissioner Dan Saltzman made of the council after being assigned Portland Fire & Rescue earlier in the year.
"I feel great," Saltzman says of the ruling. "I feel vindicated. The requirement makes our young people safer. I hope it encourages other cities to do the same thing."
The vote followed an earlier fire in a nigthtclub in Brazil that killed 241 people. The ordinance lists other nightclub fires in the past where many people died.
"Worldwide experience has shown that a substantial and terrible loss of life occurs when fires break out in nightclubs not protected with an automatic fire sprinkler system," the ordinance said.
The city eventually determined that 14 nightcubs were required to install sprinklers under the ordinance. All of them have done so.
A handful of Portland nightclub owners sued the city in September of this year to block enforcement of the ordinance, saying that it improperly imposed on their businesses.
In their lawsuit, building owners Philip Ragaway, the J.A. Atwood Corp., Spot Properties, JSP Investments, Daniel Lenzen, Glitz LLC and Divine Comedy LLC asked a Multnomah County circuit judge to require the city to refund fees and fines each of the building owners has paid.
The lawsuit has not yet been set for trial. The city does not comment on pending litigation.
The ruling can be appealed to the Oregon Court of appeals. You can read the it here.