Legislature Votes to Strengthen Pyrotechnic Law

June 23, 2006

The State Assembly today gave final legislative approval to legislation (A.5669-A/S.4502-A) that would strengthen penalties for displaying pyrotechnics indoors without proper permits.

The legislation was prompted by the February 20, 2003, Rhode Island nightclub fire which began after pyrotechnics were used by performers. The pyrotechnics ignited soundproofing foam, triggering a fire that swept through the nightclub and claimed the lives of 100 people and injured over 200.

“The issues that arose out of the Rhode Island tragedy have made it clear that nightclub and other venue owners must be held responsible for events that take place on their premises,” Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said. His bill would place the liquor license of an establishment in jeopardy of suspension, cancellation or revocation should the licensee allow or promote an event on its premises where a valid permit was not obtained from the municipality to display pyrotechnics or indoor fireworks.

“Just recently the manager of the rock band whose pyrotechnics display caused the fire in Rhode Island was sentenced to four years behind bars. I would contend that he is not the only individual responsible for that horrific fire. As we have seen from past events, the consequences of misusing pyrotechnics can be devastating. That is why it is of the utmost importance for club owners to adhere to the law. It is clear that some unscrupulous club and other venue owners may put their own profit above the safety of their patrons,” Schimminger said, noting the upcoming trial of one of the two nightclub owners from the incident in Rhode Island.

“This legislation will give added weight to the current pyrotechnic law by putting in place stronger deterrents for club owners who might be tempted to sacrifice safety for show,” Schimminger concluded. Schimminger chairs the Assembly Economic Development Committee, which has jurisdiction over legislation dealing with the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

The legislation, which was sponsored in the State Senate by Senator Martin Golden, now awaits final approval by the governor.