Arizona House Bans Cities from Requiring Fire Sprinklers in Big Bars

February 28, 2020

The Arizona House has voted to ban cities and counties from enforcing new national fire code standards requiring large restaurants and nightclubs that serve alcohol to install fire sprinklers.

The proposal from Republican Rep. Travis Grantham was pushed by the Arizona Restaurant Association. It was opposed by cities and fire agencies.

The 2018 National Fire Code provision requiring fire suppression sprinklers was prompted by a 2003 fire at The Station nightclub in West Warwick, Rhode Island, that killed 100 patrons and injured more than 200.

The House approved the measure on a 31-29 vote Wednesday with all Democrats opposed. Republicans said small businesses and sites such as VFW halls could be hurt by the cost of complying with the new requirement. Democrats cited the need to protect the public from tragic fires.

Phoenix has adopted the new code requiring sprinklers in businesses serving alcohol in buildings that hold 300 or more people. There are 38 such buildings in the city meeting those standards. Others cities are expected to also adopt the new code.

A lobbyist for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns testified in committee that Phoenix was in discussions with the restaurant group to allow up to three years to retrofit large bars. Lobbyist Nick Ponder said those talks stopped when the group went to the legislature for relief.

The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration.

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