City tells pool hall to install sprinklers 

A San Mateo pool hall owner has two weeks to install fire sprinklers in her building or she may be forced to close by the city.

In the short hearing on Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to deny B Street Billiards’ owner Michelle Khanbabian’s appeal of a decision to require the installation of sprinklers in her business.

Since its opening seven years ago, the pool hall at 164 S. B St. has been operating without emergency fire sprinklers, in spite of an agreement to install them. In a report to the council, San Mateo Fire Marshall Michael Leong said Khanbabian "has caused and maintained a continued public nuisance on the property since at least Aug. 1, 2001," for failing to install a working sprinkler system.

When Khanbabian remodeled the building in 1999 before its opening, the city says she modified 100 percent of the total square footage of the space. Under city code, any modification of 25 percent or more requires the installation of sprinklers.

But because she claimed the installation was a financial hardship, she was also granted two 18-month extensions in 1999 and 2000, which left her with a completion deadline of April 1, 2001.

"They’ve had seven years of grace on this. They’ve really gotten a lot of slack from the city in various ways, and its cost us staff time to get this resolved," Mayor Jack Matthews said. "Either she’s going to have to close down or she’s going to have to put the sprinklers in."

Khanbabian said that she has believed since 2001 that she was released from the sprinkler requirement, but now that she knows she needs to install them, she will. She said she is now working with her landlord to install a water line to feed the installed sprinklers in time to avoid having to go to court for the injunction on Jan. 16.

In support of the need for fire sprinklers, Leong gave a presentation to the council on fatal nightclub fires, including the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island that killed 100 people and injured many more. That fire was caused by pyrotechnics set off by rock band Great White during a concert.

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