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, re-occurring guest Cook offered some positive news. He cited some important facts pertaining to any mask mandates that would affect the quality of event services by stating how people are not going to patron restaurants or want to attend private events wearing masks.
Leahy: Joining us now on the line our good friend Dan Cook. He is the owner of Ruby and Clementine the premier private venues here in Nashville. He’s been with us every Friday at 7:15 a.m. the past couple months to tell us how business is going and how the mayor’s quasi-dictatorial rulings are impacting his business. Good morning Dan.
Cook: Good morning gentlemen. I can’t believe its been almost two months now that I’ve been showing up every Friday. I thought this would be over months ago.
Leahy: I guess this past Monday we went to Phase Three in Nashville. How has that played out in your business of private venues in Nashville? Good bad and different.
Cook: Obviously it’s good. It could be a lot better. But really what it’s done is re-charged the pipeline. Think of it that way. Up until last week or the week before we were telling most of our clients, we did not know when we could open up. And when you tell a bride that you typically book six months to a year in advance you essentially cut off your business.
What the mayor’s order going into Phase Three allowed us to do was to allow to turn the light switch back on. That doesn’t mean the pipeline fills up immediately. It gets us back into the first gear. So the car has started up again but we’ve got a long way to go. And I’ll tell you this weekend the intrepid independent venues in town or a handful of them are all having weddings. Again, not their normal slate of weddings but they are happening again.
Leahy: Good. Good. Does that mean more people are employed?
Cook: (Laughs) Yes. Yes. I think there is a lot of uncertainty around caterers in town. I won’t use their name. They are still surprised that weddings are happening. On social media last night, I read that. So there is still a lot of people that don’t know that the car started. But the word is getting out quickly. I think next weekend we’ll see more weddings and the weekend after that. We expect come August we will be not back to normal but at 70 percent which is a far cry from being dead in the water.
Carmichael: Has the tourism business begun to come back yet?
Cook: Well the private event business really doesn’t cater to the tourist market that much. Weddings, corporate events, non-profit events tend to be locally driven events. We do have destination weddings and so on. Those aren’t really coming back.
I think those may be one of the last parts of the wedding business to come back. Corporate business, oh my gosh, I don’t know when that will come back. I’m hoping Christmas parties will restart that business. By the way, if you have any corporate listeners out there give us a call. We are ready to book some Christmas parties.
Leahy: What’s your phone number? Where should they call?
Cook: You can go right to our websites at clementinehall.com or rubynashville.com and all our contact information is right there. It’s an interesting year, typically every Thursday, Friday, Saturday in December is booked. There is still probably 50 percent availability on our books this year which is a blessing to a lot of these companies that are willing to get off the sidelines quite frankly.
I know a lot of people don’t want to attend corporate events or these learning events. I’m sure a lot of companies don’t really want to pay for them or put them on. I think all that stops with Christmas parties. I think everybody wants to attend those. It’s time to restart.
Carmichael: So is a big part of the venue business, is it educational programs put on either by or for businesses?
Cook: It’s not a big part. A typical corporate business could be a learning event. It could be a reception of some kind. It could be a retirement party. Corporate events take all forms. But I think all of those are fairly easy for a company to justify setting aside in this environment. Christmas parties, less so.
Carmichael: Ok. That’s interesting.
Leahy: What could go wrong as you are starting to come back? You see 70 percent is better than zero percent. But what do you see on the horizon?
Cook: Well you know, (Chuckles) I ask myself that every day. What can go wrong? I think we were are all amused initially and perhaps frightened later in the day by all the talk about a mandatory mask edict. I didn’t take that seriously but you know in this environment with our mayor you’ve got to take all of this very seriously. And I can tell you there aren’t a lot of brides and grooms that want to wear a face mask. It just doesn’t work.
Leahy: I was up in Washington, D.C., and Virginia and mandatory face masks are required in most businesses up there. And I looked at this and I’ve worn a mask into our studios here every day just out of caution shall we say and out of respect for everybody in the building.
But you know I look at the evidence of this and the evidence on whether a mask makes a positive difference or a negative difference in terms of the spread of the COVID-19, there is no conclusive evidence that I’ve seen medically that it stops the spread of COVID-19. Now the general perception is that it will. But I’m not seeing any evidence. Have you seen any evidence on this?
Cook: No. I read all the same pieces that you do. I think there is a lot of doubt both ways. I don’t think that prevents our mayor from doing something just because he’s lobbied to do so. I guess where I’m going with is that this is not just a numbers game of how many people can come to our building. It’s also a quality of experience kind of thing.
If you mandate six-foot separation and mandate face masks and mandate mandatory temperature checks of everybody that comes into your business, people aren’t going to come to a restaurant. They aren’t going to go to a retail store. They are certainly not going to have a wedding. It’s almost like a creeping ban that is lurking out there in the shadows and hopefully, that doesn’t come to pass.
Leahy: Well, we’ll see.
Carmichael: The mayor I think owns commercial properties in Williamson County. Office buildings and other commercial properties and I would assume Dan that if he mandated something like that for the citizens of Davidson County than he would logically mandate that all of the people who work in his buildings would follow that same constraint?
Cook: Crom, you know that’s a setup question. (Leahy laughs) I vehemently disagree with that. We know that his son’s graduation went off yesterday with 600 people I’m told. So you know it’s definitely still a do as I say not as I do situation with our mayor. I don’t know what he’s mandating at his offices but I’m sure it’s the bare minimum out there.
Leahy: Dan, this is an ongoing saga. (Cook chuckles) We are rooting for you and we are rooting for private venues. If any corporate folks are listening here are the websites to book events with Dan.
Cook: Rubynashville.com and clementine.com. And I know a lot of venues like the Schermerhorn and these institutional venues are not reopening anytime soon. So if all of those events that are booked, hey give me a call and we’ll find a date!
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 “The Clementine” by Nashville Boutique Venues.