Live from Music Row 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. – host Leahy welcomed the owner of Nashville Boutique Venues Dan Cook to the newsmakers line.
During the third hour, Cook explained how his business comes into play with the mayor allowing Phase Three to open next Monday. He described the phase openings as an unequal application of the law by way of the equations of “capacity” being used by the Metro government.
Leahy: On the phone now is our good friend Dan Cook. He owns a couple or private venues here in Nashville. Clementine and Ruby. The mayor made some news yesterday about the re-opening. Dan, good morning. I want to hear your analysis of that news.
Cook: Good morning gentlemen. Yes, so we got big news yesterday that we appear to be moving into Phase Three on Monday. Monday is apparently an important day for phases to begin. It couldn’t start on a Friday. (Leahy laughs) We did get this gift of four days from now that we will be re-opening if things don’t regress over the weekend.
So it’s a tentative re-opening. We also learned that as it relates to my private event business even though we remain last in line to re-open we have moved up so that we can see the back of the line which is a good thing. Specifically what that means is we were allowed in Phase Three to have up to 100 people at a private event such as a wedding.
Now we can have up to 50 percent of a venue’s capacity. But not to exceed 250 people. Just to put that in perspective, a bar can have 50 percent capacity with no cap. So we are treated a little more poorly than a bar but (Sighs) things are looking a little brighter today for us.
Leahy: What are the odds that actually does go into effect on Monday?
Cook: (Chuckles) I’ve gotten out of the betting game. Look, I think it’s probably pretty high. I look at a lot of barometers and as you probably know the mayor and others have a personal interest in opening fairly soon. I don’t know how far it’s going to go. But being that graduations are going to be held all over the city next week of considerable size and the optics would be even worse than they currently are if gatherings are limited to 25 people as they are in Phase Two.
Leahy: Under Phase Three, what’s the gathering limit for outside?
Cook: The gathering limit will be no more than 250 people. And many of these graduations will be over 500 people. So, the mayor granted an exemption for these graduations.
Leahy: Oh really? What is that exemption?
Cook: I don’t know the specifics but schools can hold their graduation now. I know of many schools that are holding their graduation over the next week. And the numbers of these graduations are far in excess of the numbers allowed under Phase Three.
Leahy: We did a story on this. And just to bring you up to speed on it Dan. Montgomery Bell Academy is a very well respected private school here in town. Probably the premier private school in Nashville I guess in terms of how you look at it.
Carmichael: MBA is all male. Harpeth Hall is female. And Ensworth is co-ed.
Leahy: That would be considered the three top private schools.
Carmichael: And there are many other good ones.
Leahy: There are many good private schools herein in Nashville, Davidson County. We did a story last week that Montgomery Bell Academy had scheduled, and the mayor’s son is going to be graduating there this year.
And they had scheduled graduation for next Thursday. We asked them to comment and they said that if Phase Three happens we’ll have it. And so I guess all these graduations are on. In a very timely manner wouldn’t you say, Dan?
Cook: Yes. I’m all for these schools having graduations. But again, in Phase Three if we are there indeed next week the cap is 250. Many of these graduations will be much much higher. Unlike the protests that happened downtown, I don’t think anybody can claim freedom of expression. That’s a stretch as well.
It just gets back to this unequal application of the law. It’s picking winners and losers. And look, the optics for the mayor aren’t great that his son was not graduating and would graduations go on this year? I don’t know. I look at what happened to Kid Rock this week and the honkey-tonk. If the mayor owned a honkey-tonk, where would bars be in the line of re-opening? I think we all know the answer to that.
Carmichael: This is a shame. It’s a shame when local officials believe that they’ve been given the power to destroy other people’s lives. I think what the mayor is doing is wrong and reprehensible. And frankly, it would unconstitutional under fair-minded logical people. This guy is his health director.
Leahy: Alex Jahangir? The Vandy guy.
Carmichael: He is just terrible because of the data that they are using. Let’s be real here. There are far more people hospitalized in Davidson County that have nothing to do with COVID. COVID is a tiny problem compared to healthcare as a whole. And yet they are using this one thing.
Leahy: Amount of cases?
Carmichael: Yes. This guy from Vanderbilt. Who is he to destroy Dan Cook and others like Dan Cook’s businesses? Who is he to do that? Shame on him.
Leahy: He hasn’t addressed that of late.
Carmichael: No. Shame on him. His life hasn’t been changed. Suppose that Vanderbilt was shut down by the mayor and required Vanderbilt to fire all of its employees during the shutdown. I guarantee you all the professors at Vanderbilt and the hoity-toity people there would be enraged. But they don’t care when it affects other people like Dan Cook and the other 20,000 people that he eludes to that serve people on these events.
Leahy: Dan, what does it look like for those 20,000 people in the private venue industry?
Cook: I wouldn’t say we are flat on our back anymore. But we are all excited to be clawing our way back this week. Weddings started last week at some venues in town. They will accelerate this weekend. And going into next weekend, I won’t say we’ll see a return to normalcy. The wheels are starting to turn again very slowly.
People are not seeing much of an income. But I guess they see a light at the end of the tunnel. And Crom, to your point earlier. What I enjoy with some of these doctors who are getting a rare moment in the limelight, I ask them how they would feel about socialized medicine to kind of put them in check. I’m not a fan of that but that usually changes the conversation pretty quickly.
Carmichael: Well probably the guy that is the mayor’s so-called health director and the so-called brains, he probably is in favor of socialized medicine because he would see himself at the top of the totem pole with a great big salary lording over the doctors who actually do the hard work that would be crushed.
Carmichael: He’d probably see himself as one of the elites.
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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 “The Clementine” by Nashville Boutique Venues.