A video went viral on Twitter this morning showing people packed into The Stage on Nashville’s Lower Broadway, ignoring all of the calls for “social distancing” in an attempt to control the spread of Coronavirus. Now, Nashville officials are taking action.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper and the Metro Nashville Board of Health have ordered the closure of all bars in Davidson county, including the bars on Lower Broadway. Restaurants have also been ordered to take “social distancing” precautions, including spacing out tables and reducing capacity by 50%.
But one owner of several bars on Lower Broadway is calling the shutdown “unconstitutional” and vowing to stay open despite the mayor’s order.
Steve Smith, the owner of several popular bars on Broadway including Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Rippy’s, Honky Tonk Central, The Stage and Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock & Roll Steakhouse responded to the shutdown order with a statement claiming that all of his establishments would continue to remain open and serve the public until an order was issued by the governor of Tennessee.
And Barrett Hobbs, chairman of the Downtown Merchant Association and the operating partner of several downtown bars including Bootleggers Inn and Whiskey Bent Saloon, released a statement saying that he expects Broadway to remain open for business, despite the city’s order.
“In talking with fellow operators the consensus seems to be that Broadway will not be closing. This is not in defiance of Mayor Cooper but in protection of our musicians and employees. Most operations are self imposing distance between customers and closing dance doors, Etc.Etc.
We have not been presented with any type of city or state financial assistance that would allow us freedom from having to pay property taxes and liquor taxes owed on products sold last month. Perhaps some operators will choose to close but the vast majority have said “the show will go on”.
Other operators, however, have said they will comply with the shutdown order. According to Fox 17, Brenda and Ruble Sanderson, owner of several Broadway bars including Legends Corner, Second Fiddle, The Stage on Broadway and Nashville Crossroads, indicated that their bars would be closing.
“We will follow orders the city officials hand down, however we are very concerned for the well being of the hundreds of downtown contract musicians. We are also concerned that restaurant bars will remain open while we are required to close.”
It’s hard to overstate the impact this shutdown will have on the literally thousands of not only bar owners and bartenders, but all of the musicians who depend on gigs in these bars to pay their bills. These aren’t people who are getting rich playing on Lower Broadway – these are musicians trying to make a name for themselves and live off of the tips they make from these shows. And who knows how many of the people who are impacted by this shutdown are still recovering from the tornadoes that ripped through Nashville less than two weeks ago. That being said, the health and safety of the public has to be priority number one. A tough situation all the way around.
How much impact this order has – and which bars choose to follow it – remains to be seen, but for now, expect at least some bars on Broadway to remain closed until the situation is resolved.