Bars and entertainment venues across Massachusetts could be shut down as early as November 15th because a law requiring they install sprinklers has come due.
The Fire Safety Act of 2004, drafted by a panel convened by Gov. Mitt Romney, was in response to The Station nightclub tragedy of 2003. Fire sprinklers must be installed in establishments with a capacity of 100 people or more, and local fire officials are planning to revoke licenses at 9 a.m., according to the Boston Globe.
About 60 percent of the bars in Boston alone are not in compliance – meaning 173 bars and nightclubs – according to the paper.
Fire marshals are expressing little sympathy. State fire marshal Stephen Coan told the Globe that the non-compliant venues are "scofflaws" and it was inexcusable to not have the sprinklers installed by now. Lawmakers focused on the dimly lit dance clubs and the law does not apply to restaurants.
Financial hardship and logistics have been cited as reasons for avoiding the sprinkler requirement. Many bars that serve food have argued they are restaurants.
"They’ve got a jar of pickled eggs on the counter, but that’s not good enough," Fall River Deputy Fire Chief William Silvia told the Globe.
One hundred people died at The Station – a small, wooden nightclub that not only lacked sprinklers but included flammable material and allegedly years of relaxed fire codes from a good ol’ boy network. Many Massachusetts citizens died in the West Warwick, R.I., blaze.
The Rhode Island Attorney General’s office recently released documents and evidence pertaining to The Station, including the names of 458 people who were at the 404-capacity club that night.
At least two documents released misrepresented the capacity, which West Warwick fire officials set at 404, according to the Providence Journal. Great White tour manager Dan Biechele had a spreadsheet on his computer that listed the capacity at 550 (the same capacity the club provided to Pollstar) while a 2001 concert agreement with Ants Marching listed the club at 600.