Nashville on Thursday moved to Phase Three of its plan to recover from COVID-19, but Nashville Mayor John Cooper refused to remove the 50 percent capacity limit on restaurants, despite the lack of scientific evidence to support continuing that draconian restriction.
Restaurants lose money when they are not allowed to have more than 50 percent capacity, an artificial limit placed on them by Mayor Cooper since July 3.
As reported Thursday, Dennis Ferrier of the Nashville-based FOX 17 News connected only 146 of the county’s 25,000-plus coronavirus cases to restaurants and bars since March even as they continue to face crippling limitations.
Ferrier on Wednesday reported that the 146 cases account for less than one-half of one percent of all cases, which has implications for businesses that have been closed or working at a fraction of occupancy since March.
The Tennessee hospitality association offers these numbers from the state. In June and July combined, Nashville restaurant numbers are down 41 percent. The entire rest of the state is down just 12 percent.
Fox 17 News reported on September 25 that more and more businesses and workers in the hospitality industry are interested in joining a federal class action lawsuit over Cooper’s shutdown.
Maury County Mayor Andy Ogles said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Cooper can heal the economy by reopening it, The Tennessee Star reported Wednesday.
The Star reported on Sept. 21 that Cooper knew the truth about the low restaurant and bar case counts during a July 2 press conference when he said “record” cases were his reason to slash the businesses’ capacity. In other words, there was no credible evidence.
When Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced at a July 2 press conference that he was shutting down all the city’s bars for 14 days, reducing restaurant capacity from 75 percent to 50 percent, and temporarily closing event venues and entertainment venues, all due to “record” cases of COVID-19 traceable to restaurants and bars, he apparently knew that his own Metro Health Department said less than two dozen cases of COVID-19 could be traced to those establishments.
Metro Coronavirus Chair Alex Jahangir announced the move to Phase Three at a press conference Thursday. Jahangir said the new phase allows restaurants and bars to operate at 50 percent capacity up to 100 customers per floor and an additional 100 patrons outside. Also, groups of eight are allowed to sit at a table. Restaurants and bars may close at 11 p.m.
Mayor John Cooper holds news conference on public health
Posted by Mayor John Cooper on Thursday, October 1, 2020
Event spaces, Jahangir said, may have 30 percent capacity or 500 people — whichever is less. Metro Public Health officials still must approve any event with more than 25 individuals, he added.
Dan Cook, who owns private event venues in Nashville, told The Star Thursday that Metro officials still require what he described as “a hyper-detailed application” for each event.
“All the members of my peer group and I have caucused on this very issue, and none of us are going to fill this out. It is not asked of any other business in the city, only for events,” Cook said.
“So we are treated exactly the same as if you had a 100-person party in your backyard, and you didn’t know what you were doing and you were looking to Metro Health for guidance with this application. But, hey, we are in the business and we do this every day. I can’t fill out an application every single day. It makes no sense. It’s a total non-starter.”
Cook said Davidson County residents are cancelling weddings in Nashville and instead holding them in surrounding areas, especially Williamson or Maury counties.
“Any place outside of Nashville is fully 100 percent open for business, and we have told the mayor this. He was dumbstruck. He said ‘Oh, you mean a bride and groom who live in Nashville can get married in Williamson County, and all the guests who are from Davidson will go to Williamson County for this? And then come back to Davidson County?’” Cook said.
“And we said ‘Yeah — every single day.’”
Cook said that the restrictions, as well as Cooper’s 34 percent tax increase, may prompt him to relocate his business to Williamson County.
“We love Nashville, but I’d like to fight for it rather than give up on it like so many other people have,” Cook said.
But Cook said that his patience, after seven months, “is gone.”
Cooper, at Thursday’s press conference, said he and other Metro officials constantly seek ways to add capacity.
“We can control the disease and control the damage that it does to our economy, but we have to remember to continue. We have to remember all the safe habits that got us to this improved condition,” Cooper said.
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