State questions Portland's city code requiring nightclub sprinkl - KPTV - FOX 12

State questions Portland's city code requiring nightclub sprinkler systems

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Jeff Plew and Dan Lenzen, owners of Dixie Tavern and Duke's Bar & Grill (KPTV) Jeff Plew and Dan Lenzen, owners of Dixie Tavern and Duke's Bar & Grill (KPTV)

A new report by State Building Code officials said Portland City leaders may have broken the law when they changed city codes, forcing several nightclub owners to install pricey sprinkler systems.

"We think we've got a report that agrees with our point of view that the City overstepped their bounds," said Dan Lenzen.

Dan Lenzen and his business partner Jeff Plew are feeling somewhat vindicated with the report from the State Building Code Division.

Lenzen and Plew own the Dixie Tavern in Old Town and Duke's Bar and Grill in southeast. These are venues the City considers nightclubs with room for more than 200 people.

In 2014, the business partners got a letter saying all nightclubs needed to have sprinkler systems, which had to be installed at the Dixie Tavern and Duke's.

"At that property alone, it was $93,000," said Plew.

City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who also serves as Fire Commissioner, pushed for the code changes.

The report says the City may have broken the law. It says there is a certain procedure required to add or change an ordinance related to state building codes and the City "completely disregarded this process."

Even after state leaders told City officials they might be overstepping their bounds, they still haven't responded to some of division's allegations.

"I disagree. I think we have the authority to protect public health and safety," said Commissioner Saltzman.

Commissioner Saltzman said he hasn't read the state's report yet, but he feels the council was well within its rights to change building codes. He said he wanted to be proactive.

"That we as a City Council could either pass something today, meaning two years ago, or we could convene the day after a tragedy and do the same thing. As is what happens in every city where tragedies do occur," said Commissioner Saltzman.

Some nightclubs couldn't afford the sprinklers and closed down. 

Lenzen and Plew had to take out a high interest loan they'll be paying off for three years, but they're hoping for some relief if it's decided the City broke the law.

"Since we've done this by request of the City, if they could compensate us for the cost, that would be awesome," said Lenzen.

The Code Enforcement Investigator who wrote the report made some suggestions including imposing a fine on the City of $25,000, however, the investigation is still ongoing.

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