PORTLAND City commissioners have passed a new requirement for some Portland nightclubs to install sprinkler systems, but one club owner said the price tag could shut down his business.

City council passed the new ordinance, which requires at least 14 nightclubs to add fire sprinklers, in order to avoid a tragedy like the 2003 Rhode Island nightclub fire that killed 100 people. Investigators said a sprinkler system would have saved everyone inside.

Background: More Portland nightclubs to have sprinklers

Phil Ragaway said he has spent more than two decades running clubs, restaurants and bars in Portland. Now one of his clubs will likely have to install a sprinkler system.

While he didn't dispute that the system could save lives, he said the cost could be devastating for some nightclubs.

Its a whimsical, off-the-hip rule that they made and the bar is so high it's unobtainable, Ragaway said.

The city estimates the cost of a system for a 5,000 square foot building would be $20,000, but that doesn't include connection to the city water supply. Ragaway said that will cost much more.

I paid nearly $20,000 in city fees for the pleasure of allowing me to do sprinklers, he said. And another $50,000 to install a very, very small sprinkler system.

Commissioner Dan Saltzman took the lead on the sprinkler plan. During a public hearing on September 4, he said requiring sprinklers was a matter of safety.

If we don't act preventative I'm convinced we're going to convene after a tragedy and do the same thing, he said.

Clubs will have about 18 to 24 months to get the systems installed, depending on the size of the building.

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