NASHVILLE, Tennessee – A group of business owners, employees and musicians gathered Tuesday outside Metro Nashville City Hall to protest Mayor John Cooper’s ongoing safer-at-home order.
Cooper’s current safer-at-home order is in effect until Friday, May 8.
During his daily COVID-19 briefing Tuesday, Cooper said in considering the expiration of his safer-at-home order he would be “spending a lot of time with all the public health experts in the next 24 to 48 hours to see how soon it really is prudent to move on into Phase One” of the Roadmap for Reopening Nashville.
Dozens of protest participants primarily from downtown businesses sported gear with logos including Tootsies, Honky Tonk Central and Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk, all entertainment venues of business owner Steve Smith.
Smith was initially a hold-out against Cooper’s safer-at-home order but complied shortly after the issuance of the order.
Protestors held a variety of signs reflecting their livelihood and the city’s moniker, including “Put The Music Back in Music City,” “No Music, No City,” “Starving Artist,” “Let Us Play,” “Aren’t Musicians Essential to Music City?” and “It’s Time To Open.”
Perhaps demonstrating to Cooper their commitment to protecting against the spread of the coronavirus, nearly all of the protest participants were wearing a face mask.
Metro Council Member-At-Large Steve Glover joined the group, despite being in about a six-hour virtual council meeting until about midnight.
Glover, as an at-large council member represents all of Nashville/Davidson County, told The Tennessee Star he felt that he had to be there to support the participants.
While 89 counties in Tennessee have begun reopening under Governor Bill Lee’s direction even as Nashville remains closed, Cooper has added insult to injury by proposing a 32 percent property tax increase as part of his budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Glover had already started his campaign against the exorbitant property tax increase and took the opportunity at Wednesday’s event to bring it to the attention of the attendees.
“We’re literally saying we’re going to fix our spending problem, taking the money out of your pocket,” said Glover, “and I’m not going to stand by and just let it happen.”
Meanwhile, “non-essential” businesses remain shut down, making no revenue to pay the increased property tax and having no indication of when Cooper will allow the start of Phase One of the Roadmap.
And, as Cooper explained Tuesday, “Phase One is not the end of social distancing. Phase One is just another phase of social distancing.”
The reality is, for downtown merchants, entering Phase One will be of little to no use.
Phase One of Cooper’s Roadmap for Reopening Nashville will still require that restaurants serving food be open at just half capacity, while bar areas, bars, live music and entertainment venues remain closed, as will nail salons, salons, massage, gyms, fitness centers, playgrounds and athletic courts.
Only after 14 days of stability or positive improvement will there will be movement to Phase Two, which continues to prohibit live music and bars, bar areas and entertainment venues from reopening.
Under the current Roadmap provisions, an unrestricted, full reopening of the venues on Lower Broadway – if all goes perfectly from an expired stay-at-home order on May 8 through each of the Roadmap’s first three phases – could not occur until June 19.
That will be nearly three months since the venues were closed through the safer-at-home order that went into effect on March 23.
– – –
Laura Baigert is a senior reporter at The Tennessee Star.