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 described what going back to Phase Two in Nashville means for his business. He added that his group of private event venue owners met with the mayor’s office to get a category label for their businesses and have still not received any feedback nor seen data that supports the reversion.
Leahy: On our newsmaker line our good friend Dan Cook, the owner of Nashville Boutique Venues Ruby and Clementine. It’s been a rough couple of months for private venues in Nashville. And Dan we have you on periodically here on Fridays. Tell us what is going on.
Cook: Hello guys. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’d been on and I thought my tenure with you all was winding down. But low and behold we went from Phase Three to Phase Two. And you may recall that when we went from Phase Two to Phase Three private event venues such as mine were allowed to operate again to a significant degree yet still in a lesser capacity than bars.
But we were able to operate. But when we went back to Phase Two weeks ago most of our events could no longer be held. And obviously that destructive all over again I guess is the way to say it. We are whiplashed every day by this mayor.
Leahy: Have you talked to him and has he said this is a bad idea for our business? And has he responded?
Cook: Yeah. I don’t know how forthcoming I should be but we as a group of private event venue owners have contacted the mayor’s office and other powers in the city government recently, and really our goal was to have our business defined.
If you can believe it the mayor’s office still has not separated our private industry from what they refer to as gatherings. A gathering is what I would think of as a backyard birthday party or some unstructured get together. Whereas we are obviously a private business in a controlled environment where we set the rules.
So it’s a totally different kind of situation. But we had a meeting simply to define what we are so that we could, therefore, be put into an opening category. We still don’t know when we go back to Phase Three what we will be allowed to do or how many people we will be allowed to serve.
An in the industry we’ll book let’s say a Christmas party six months or a year in advance. For them not to know whether they can have a party or how many people they can have it’s utterly destructive. Of course, they are going to either not book or cancel their event.
In any event, it totally shuts down our business. The analogy I use is like a stock market. The stock market really prices in expectation. And uncertainty drives the stock market down. And in our case, uncertainty totally destroys our business unlike a restaurant or a retailer.
When those kinds of businesses open somebody will walk in their door on day one. When we are allowed to open our doors people will not walk into our doors probably for six months to a year. We’re again flat on our backs.
Carmichael: Dan, when you were allowed to open in Phase Three did you actually hold any events, or was Phase Three for you such a short period of time that nobody booked or had an event?
Cook: We did. We were able to have events that we had not previously rescheduled or canceled. And the number of private event venues in town did the same. And we could hold events up to 250 people at that time.
Carmichael: And how did those events go off?
Cook: They went very well. The way I explain it to pending clients is that they were normal apart from the fact that all the vendors including our employees were wearing face masks. There were some of the trappings of our current environment. The events went very very well.
But literally a week after we had these events the mayor’s office and the Metro Health Department put out this mapping infographic. I don’t know if you saw it. I think it was entitled, The Big Six. These are the Big Six in the eyes of our city creating these hotspots.
And one of the six was weddings. Which was hilarious to us, but not that funny but we hadn’t even had any yet. So for them to put that on there it was clearly without any local data. But also on the info-graphic, they had construction sites, hospitals and other kinds of offenders which of course say they leave 100 percent open.
Carmichael: When your group spoke with the mayor’s office what was their response? You are making very logical arguments here. What was their response? Why will they not do what you are recommending? What was their reasoning?
Cook: Our objective going into the meeting was simply to have our industry-defined and then put in a category. What they told us at the end of the meeting is that we understand your need for clarity and certainty so we could articulate that to our clients. And they said that they would get back to us. And that was four or five days ago. And we’ve heard nothing at this point.
We have heard through back channels and side conversations after the meeting that we will probably not get any answer or any clarity until July 31. Now July 31 is the date that the mayor’s office said they will keep the bars shut down. Now we are not a bar as you know. But until July 31 we will not even have that answer.
And that still presupposes that the bars will be opened on August 1. Who knows if that will actually happen. So until they go from Phase Two back to Phase Three they won’t even let us know what our fate is. Why I have no idea.
Carmichael: If they go back to Phase Three can’t you go back to where you were for Phase Three before? Or have they changed something?
Cook: Well Crom you would think so. Every time we’ve moved through the road map, the mayor’s office has changed our designation, and they invariably step us back. So you’d think that we’d be able to have events up to 250 people when we go to Phase Three but recall that we are in a modified phase. So in a modified Phase Two, we should have been at 50 people now for most events. But most events now have us back to 25. We have no idea what the modified Phase Three will be which is concerning.
Leahy: Back to the issue of data. What data did they share with you on deaths for instance in Davidson County to justify the movement from Phase Three to Phase Two? Have they shared that data with you?
Cook: No, no, no. You know that the goalposts keep moving. It’s all now infection rates.
Leahy: I cannot find the data. I cannot find the morbidity data from public health officials in Nashville which is the critical data. So it seems to be arbitrary in my view.
Listen to the 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.