Nightclub owners sue to stop Portland sprinkler ordinance

Building owners against one-size-fits-all ordinance

Several Portland nightclub owners are suing the city to stop enforcement of the sprinkler ordinance. (Pamplin Media)

PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — A handful of Portland nightclub owners are suing the city to block enforcement of a sprinkler ordinance they say was 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 block the city’s retroactive sprinkler ordinance they said violated their constitutional equal protection and due process rights. They also want the city to refund fees and fines each of the building owners has paid.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Multnomah County Circuit Court. The city does not comment on pending litigation. No court date has been set for the case.

Ragaway owns Biddy McGraw’s, 6000 N.E. Glisan St., and the Mount Tabor Theater, 4811 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd. The Atwood Corp. manages as manager of commercial properties, including the Dante’s building 350 W. Burnside St., and the Silverado building, 318 S.W. Third Ave.

Spot Properties manages commercial properties, including Biddy McGraw’s building and the Mount Tabor Theater building. JSP Investments and Lenzen own Duke’s Country Bar and Grill, 14601 S.E. Division St., and Dixie Tavern, 32 N.W. Third Ave.

Divine Comedy operates Dante’s, 350 W. Burnside St. Glitz LLC does business as the Star Theater, 13 N.W. Sixth Ave.

The city’s 2013 ordinance required most nightclubs with room for 100 or more people to upgrade existing sprinkler systems, or install new ones. Building owners claimed the city imposed a one-size-fits-all ordinance without properly vetting its impact on their businesses.

“The city failed to take any measures to identify or reduce the economic impacts to small businesses, such as plaintiffs,” according to the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs said the city based its cost estimates on “information provided by outside estimators who had never visited the impacted businesses, did not account for the historic nature of the affected buildings, and did not account for potential inherent water pressure problems.”

According to the lawsuit, the city originally thought the ordinance would apply to 13 to 60 businesses. Eventually, the city determined that it would affect only 14 businesses and buildings.

The Portland Tribune is a KOIN media partner.