Bars in downtown Nashville have been getting a lot of attention lately, and for the wrong reasons.
While most of the honky tonks on Lower Broadway have been forced to close since the beginning of July, there are still a few that have been allowed to remain open. Because places like Blake Shelton’s Ole Red, Rippy’s Honky Tonk and Mellow Mushroom have full service restaurant licenses, they’ve been able to continue operating at half capacity while the rest of the bars around them, and across the city, are closed.
The result has been large crowds congregating outside of these bars as downtown partiers wait to get in. Every weekend, another viral video makes its way around the interwebs showing huge crowds of people standing out on Broadway, often not wearing masks and definitely not practicing any form of social distancing. It’s been a black eye that the city has struggled to get under control in the midst of a disturbingly high number of COVID cases.
Last night, Maren Morris added her voice to the growing number of people who are blaming the Broadway honky tonks for keeping bars across the city closed. Maren took to twitter to call out the Broadway bars for “taking advantage of these loopholes,” saying that they’re “cannibalizing our Nashville small businesses that have been following the health orders since day 1.”
Broadway bars taking advantage of these loopholes right now are cannibalizing our Nashville small businesses who have been following the health orders since day 1. Going to donate to my friends at The Fox because this is absolutely heartbreaking. https://t.co/McsDdPqvKQ
The tweet from Maren comes after several other small neighborhood bars, including East Nashville’s The Fox Bar & Cocktail Club, are criticizing the city’s shutdown order as unfairly targeting small businesses like theirs while the larger honky tonks downtown continue to operate.
Now, I don’t think the downtown bars themselves are necessarily to blame. They’re playing by the city’s rules, enforcing the mask mandate and limiting capacity. And under the city’s order, they’re allowed to be open. The problems have been with the crowds outside of their bars and outside of their control. And when tourists are still flocking to Broadway but only have 3 or 4 open bars to choose from, it seems pretty obvious that the result is going to be growing crowds outside of those bars. It’s on the city to control that.
Basically, Nashville has one big clusterfuck on its hands right now, and there doesn’t seem to be an easy solution that will make everybody happy while still keeping people safe. But with big voices like Maren Morris drawing even more attention to the problem, maybe it will cause the city to re-evaluate what it’s been doing and provide some relief to these small neighborhood bars.