Nashville Announces Plan to Reopen… Without Live Music

A person standing on a street corner
Cody Lannom via Unsplash

Music City finally has a plan to reopen, but it doesn’t include live music – at least not for a while.

With Nashville’s “safer at home” order set to expire on May 1, Mayor John Cooper announced his phased plan to finally reopen the city after over a month of shutdowns due to Coronavirus. The plan includes 4 phases, with each phase lasting 14 days. And if there aren’t improvements, or if COVID cases increase during any of the phases, the city would revert to the previous phase – meaning that it will take at least two weeks, but potentially longer, to move from one phase to the other.

The first phase of the plan to reopen Nashville includes opening restaurants and retail businesses at half capacity. Bars and entertainment venues (including museums, tours, etc), along with sports venues, would remain closed. The second phase increases the capacity for restaurants and retail to 3/4 capacity, but restaurants still have to keep their bar areas closed…and they aren’t allowed to have live music.

Once we get to phase 3 we finally start to see the bars open up again – and we actually get to the live music! Bars will be required to reopen at half capacity, and employees will have to wear masks, but after waiting this long, I’ll take what I can get. Then once we finally get to phase 4, bars are allowed to reopen at full capacity.

So if you’re keeping track, with each phase of the reopening taking at least 14 days after the plan (potentially) begins on May 1, that means that the absolute earliest we’ll see bars reopen in Nashville is the end of May. But if there’s an increase in COVID cases during any of the earlier phases, it could be back to square one – and another month of doing it all over again.

And while it’s nice to finally have a plan for getting the bars reopened and the musicians back on stage, some Broadway bar owners aren’t happy with this plan and the effect it will have on musicians. Brenda and Ruble Sanderson, the owners of several bars on Lower Broadway including Legend’s Corner, The Stage and Second Fiddle, have criticized the mayor’s plan to reopen Nashville for not allowing live music until phase 3, calling it “odd” that establishments are able to open their doors to patrons but not musicians. (And I’ll admit, that part of the plan seems like a direct shot at the Lower Broadway bars).

Now obviously we’re all excited at the prospect of bars reopening and live music returning to Nashville – but things are going to look quite a bit different when they do. Steve Smith, the (controversial) owner of bars like Tootsie’s, Kid Rock’s and Honky Tonk Central recently said that his bars plan to put a Plexiglass partition between every two barstools and will take the temperature of everybody who enters the bar. And even with the precautions that the establishments plan to take, Smith predicts that it will take years for Broadway to return to what it was before the virus hit.

So there you have it. We finally have some sort of a timeline for when we might finally get music in Music City. And as much as I hate on Lower Broadway, I can’t wait to finally hear shitty Luke Bryan covers coming out of Tootsie’s again.

Hell, I’ll be first in line to get in. Just as soon as I can finally get a haircut.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock