Live from Nashville, Tennessee, Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.– Leahy was joined on the newsmakers line by Carey Bringle who is the local business owner of the popular BBQ restaurant located in The Gulch of downtown Nashville the Peg Leg Porker.
During the third hour, Bringle described his recent letter to Mayor John Cooper in Nashville in direct response to his recently proposed 32% tax increase. He expressed his disappointment in the timing of Cooper’s decision not only to have his constitutional rights be violated to make a living due to COVID but also because he feels he’s being fiscally punished for making smart choices years ago and contributing to the growth of Nashville by developing a successful and locally owned business.
Leahy: We are joined now by a new friend. The owner of a fantastic restaurant here in Nashville. Peg Leg Porker. One of the best BBQ joints in the country at 903 Gleaves Street in Nashville. And Carey Bringle is the owner. Carey, you wrote just a withering letter the other day about the government shutting you down against your constitutional rights. Tell us about your argument there Carey.
Bringle: Well Michael, I understand that the mayor is trying to keep this virus from spreading in Nashville. I get that. And understand that he’s shut the whole city down and it wasn’t just us. We’re not crazy about it but we’ve been shut down for about a month and a half right now.
We are opening up today for take-out and delivery but we still can’t have in-house dining until at the earliest next Friday under his order. It’s very frustrating. You can’t run a business with no cash flow. We still have expenses and we still have our bills with the city. (Chuckles)
Leahy: By the way, apparently he wants to raise property taxes as well.
Bringle: And so in the middle of this crisis and pandemic, he decided to announce that he wanted a 32% tax increase on our property tax. And over the last seven years, our property taxes have already gone up 1100%. We understand the area is hot and the property value has gone up but those gains on property value are only relevant if you sell your property. When I bought this property in 2012 our property taxes were $4,600. And now they are $55,000 and with the mayor’s proposed tax increase they would be $72,000 a year.
Leahy: That’s a huge increase. What sort of value are you getting from those property taxes your paying?
Bringle: Well I don’t think we’re getting much value. The city is broke. We’re four billion dollars in debt. And this tax increase is the only way that the mayor says we can make the budget. They are using this pandemic or this virus as an excuse for poor fiscal management over the last 10 years. While we’ve had to furlough 45 employees for a month a half all of the Metro employees in Nashville who are sitting at home are still collecting checks and are still on full benefits.
Leahy: Do you think the governor has the constitutional authority to shut your restaurant down and deprive you of the ability to make a living and the mayor?
Bringle: No. I don’t think that they do. They have. They’ve exercised that right that they feel like they have. I think its clear, Attorney General Barr has already telegraphed to the states and cities that they are overstepping their bounds and that the Constitution does not stop in the middle of a crisis.
Leahy: The governor has said that restaurants can open up in certain conditions in 89 of the 95 counties in the state. So this next Friday, May the 8th the safer at home rule has been extended. Restaurants cannot open for sit down dining, what are you going to do if Mayor Cooper extends that order and continues to prohibit you from making a living by saying you can’t have in-store dining on May the 8th?
Bringle: I think we’ll have to decide on May the 8th what we’re going to do. We may just have to say guess what? We’re going to get open anyway. The frustrating part right now is that neighboring counties are open for business and so we are literally watching our customers that are next door, down the street, that work downtown, get in their cars and go on a 10-minute ride down I-65 and go eat at a restaurant down in Brentwood, Williamson County instead of being able to come to our restaurant and eat.
It doesn’t make any sense. They are coming right back downtown right back to their office building and back to the same group people, they were with before. And they’ve been able to sit in a restaurant and have a meal but they can’t do it next door because of the governor’s and the mayor’s orders.
Leahy: Have been you been contacted by any constitutional attorneys who say you’ve got a good case and we’d be happy to help you file a lawsuit against the mayor if he decides not to let you open up on Friday, May the 8th?
Bringle: I haven’t been contacted by any constitutional attorneys yet. We already have a lawsuit against our insurance company for our business loss insurance that they don’t want to pay under this virus. So I don’t know if we want to embark on another lawsuit at this time. But it would be interesting to talk to somebody.
Leahy: So you’re talking about the business interruption part of your insurance policy? A lot of small businesses have been trying to do that. But they’ve been resisted by the insurance companies. Is that the particular kind of thing that you are focusing on there?
Bringle: That’s exactly what we’re focusing on. We don’t a virus clause attached to our policy. And so we do business interruption insurance. We think that this is a perfect example of an applicable case. We have in there that contamination would be a cause for a payout and also civil authority shutdown would be cause for a payout. But the insurance companies were sending notices even before anybody filed any claims that they did not intend to pay any of these claims.
Leahy: Well, I have a little bit of good news for you on that. Earlier in this program during the six o’clock hour, we spoke with Hogan Gidley and our all-star panelist Clint Brewer asked him the very question that you’re dealing with right now. Does the White House plan on addressing the failure of insurance companies to pay out business interruption claims. And guess what? The White House is looking at that.
Bringle: Well, that’s great news. We hope that they’ll address it. But we’re not going to wait around if they do address it. We’ve already filed a lawsuit in federal court against our insurance provider to force them to look at this again and pay up. They denied the claim after three days without any investigation. As they saw this coming down the pipe and they took a stance and started posturing to go ahead and deny everybody’s claims because they knew this might be a nail in the coffin business interruption insurance.
Leahy: I’m guessing you personally have put a lot of money at risk to make this business a success. When you look at this and look at the failure of the system in many regards and the government to help you succeed. How do you react to that?
Bringle: Well its frustrating Michael. You know we’ve dumped about $3.5 million worth of investments into our neighborhood and into The Gulch. Into what was once a blighted part of Nashville. We helped make it a vibrant community and it feels like one, not only like we’re being kicked while we’re down but two penalized for investing in our city which we love and being an early adopter in this neighborhood.
And so when you invest in Nashville and Nashville turns around and says we’re going to penalize you for making good choices and for taking a chance then it’s extremely frustrating. We’ve created over 50 new jobs and since 2013 we’ve collected over 1.9 million in sales and liquor tax. And we’ve paid over $560,000 in the payroll tax.
And yet our taxes on our property continue to go up. And if the mayor’s proposal is adopted our new payment for our payment will be $6,000 a month. That is $700 more than our mortgage on the property after renovation when I first opened the Peg Leg Porker.
Leahy: Carey Bringle. Peg Leg Porker. PegLegPorker.com. You are taking orders now and people can go online and order from Peg Leg Porker?
Bringle: We are. We are opening today for take-out and delivery. And if you want to to to PegLegPorker.com we will ship anywhere in the nation through Goldbelly.
Leahy: And if it’s OK with you, we’re going to make Peg Leg Porker the official BBQ restaurant of the Tennessee Star Report. How does that work?
Bringle: Thank you very much, Michael. I really appreciate your support and thanks for the call.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Peg Leg Porker” by Peg Leg Porker.