Few fireworks stand operators are planning to be open for business for New Year's celebrations because of county regulations.
Fireworks stand operators who can bank on booming sales before Independence Day say Douglas County regulations for New Year's fireworks sales are a dud.
"We knew we couldn't hack it," said Howard Pine, who has sponsored a July fireworks stand for 52 years but decided to sit out next week. "This is out of our line; we're summertime folks. There's too many restrictions."
Douglas County regulations have allowed tents and temporary stands each July. When county commissioners approved fireworks sales Dec. 30 to Jan. 1, they didn't change the rules concerning the sales. That essentially forces fireworks sales outside, because the county building code calls for buildings where fireworks are sold or stored to have sprinkler systems, panic bars on doors and emergency exits.
Keith Dabney, the county's director of zoning and codes, said he's not aware of a single suitable building out in the county that has a sprinkler system. Fireworks sales aren't allowed within the city limits of Lawrence.
"The only thing we've allowed in the past has been tents or stands, but nothing in a building," Dabney said. "This is the first time that request came up because this is the winter."
The regulations ban all sources of flame and sparks and flammable liquids within 50 feet of the tents. That's not a problem in the sweltering heat of summer, but it will force fireworks stand operators to rent tent heaters and then pump in hot air.
"Who knows, it could be zero degrees, and with the wind blowing, it could be real nasty," said John Tacha, who decided to bow out of the fireworks business this winter. His decision came when he learned the county wouldn't let him use buildings at the Teepee Junction north of Lawrence or at the Rock Chalk Ranch near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive.
"We thought all along (county planners) knew exactly what we were talking about," said Tacha, a former Lawrence school board member who runs the Bureau of Lectures and Concert Artists.
Tacha's summer business partners, Larry and Gary Bartz, still plan for stands at the two locations.
"It's a very expensive process to heat the tents," said Gary Bartz, who owns Don's Steak House, 2176 E. 23rd. "Having tents in the summer is the deal, because it's hot then."
Rod Karlin, Lawrence, is waiting until next week before deciding whether to put up his Midwest Fireworks stand at 31st and Kasold.
"I haven't made a commitment yet; I'm waiting to see what the weather looks like," Karlin said. "If the weather's not cooperative, it's more trouble than it's worth."
-- Chris Koger's phone message number is 832-7126. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.