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Traveling to Nashville in exciting times: City did enough?

Last weekend, in a new building with sweeping views of the city skyline in a chic East Nashville neighborhood, organizers advertised a social media party called “The See The Fashion House VIP ”. Masks are scarce. Hookahs are very rich. And hundreds of bodies were packed up and writhed in the narrow space. Judging by the videos posted to Instagram the next day, Nashville appears to have opened its own Hedonism resort.

A suburban attendee, who passed by DaddysJuiced, appeared in a video showing him kneeling, face buried in a woman’s butt. Framed in one of the large windows of the house, DaddysJuiced did his thing while being gazed at by a long line of people waiting inside on the street below.

Just under three miles, in the Broadway Nashville entertainment area, a little bit of analingus centered though similar to the batshit scene going on, one that has been going on for weeks. A sign in front of the Honky Tonk Central three-story drinking temple flashes, “Wear a mask is the Law!”

; But few people pay attention to the damn-be-damn mission. Tourists wear masks under the chin, on hands or not at all. A photo on social media showed two topless men toasting beer as they took a selfie with Metro Nashville police officers. On the corner of Fifth and Broadway, a block from the Ryman Auditorium, a stretched pickup truck carried drinkers and their red plastic mugs into the night.

Welcome to Nashville in a pandemic, where the group continues, unabated.

We should see it coming. For nearly 10 years, Nashville has built its image as Las Vegas East (eventually its nickname NashVegas), a city that advertises itself as a tourist-friendly destination for excessive drinking. and noisy. Romanticized as a zero-point for rising country music singers who play to tip in over-covered bars like Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and Kid Rock’s Badass Honky Tonk and Rock & Roll Steakhouse , the region on the weekend before the pandemic is often intense and crowded. The threat of a sensory suction punch is imminent. Party buses, tractor-drawn horse-drawn carriages and portable hot tubs crept in with drunk tourists crowding inside. It is a sad hell that even Kris Kristofferson cannot envision in a song.

By the end of this week, little has changed during the pandemic. Nashville, while openly trying to fight a raging virus, is still addicted to travel. In early July, just days after the city abruptly canceled the fireworks show on July 4 due to the proliferation of Covid-19 cases, the city’s Twitter account asked: “Stop What was your first stay in Nashville? ” Most responses refer to different bars and landmarks; some tweets “hospital” or “check Covid.” It was not a public appeal to visit, but nonetheless, tourists did.

Erin McAnally, a writer and consultant who, along with business partner Chelsea Crowell, published a joint article last week saying the city was sending mixed signals about the ongoing Broadway issue. in Tennessee Lookout. “They can’t have it both ways,” she said Rolling Stone. “You cannot be left open to interpretation and having tourists come or send out these signals that bring more tourists here.”

Nashville is making some modest progress in fighting the surge – infection averaged around 400 a day last month before dropping to its current daily level of 250 – but without any help. from the rotating cast of party participants. In just the past three days, after Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced it would take control of everything last Tuesday, the mask became a more common sight in the city center. Following Cooper’s lead, Metro police arrested for the first time Wednesday for the mask violation – a 61-year-old black man who gave his address as Nashville Rescue Mission, a shelter hidden for homeless people. (The allegations were subsequently dismissed.) On Friday, the MNPD issued 20 citations and made an arrest; Saturday saw 18 citations and three arrests.

Along with (eventually) implementing the masking mission and shutting down the party bus’s “entertainment transport” industry that circled the city center, the mayor issued a public health order new on Saturdays ban restaurants and bars in the city center and neighborhood alcohol sales. The inclusion of downtown, near historic Music Row, highlights how Broadway behavior, like a virus, has been and is spreading. Downtown bars were busy and last weekend members of a bachelor’s party took action in the city’s Gulch neighborhood, with an attendee allegedly coughing at an employee. the restaurant after being blamed for moving the table violated the restaurant’s social away policy.

“Nashville currently has a masking regulation, no bars are allowed to open and all restaurants must end their dinner service at 10 pm. These restrictions are mandatory for our visitors, ”said Dr. Alex Jahangir, president of the Nashville Covid-19 Task Force and the Nashville Medical Department. Rolling Stone. “We don’t want their trip to Nashville to end with they catching the virus here and bringing it home. Although many of our healthier and younger travelers may not care if they are infected with the virus, if they bring it back into their communities, they can infect their families. family or friends who may not be able to tolerate the virus and end up in hospital or morgue. A carelessly happy weekend in Nashville is not worth having such lasting consequences.

Tourists carrying the virus home are an ongoing concern and one that is difficult to track down. McAnally, who signed a contract with Covid-19 with her husband, said: “It is very difficult to keep track of the contact.

With missions on track, there are signs that party culture is migrating to break free from the restrictions. At least three beer buses – including one called “Rowdy ‘Rona” – were discovered 16 miles south, in the cool neighborhood of Springs this weekend. They were quickly shut down by the local police but tourists still congregate at bars in the area. A video shot outside a facility shows dozens of people drinking alcohol in the parking lot.

Crowell, daughter of Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell (and granddaughter of Johnny Cash), says Nashville’s downtown travel priority history comes at the expense of the city’s culture, small businesses and now Now is the health of the residents. In response, she spearheaded an online petition calling for the city to close Broadway bars until the pandemic gets under control.

“The truth is that over the past decade or so, whether or not there have been so many great deals awarded to developers and lots of incentives to create this distinct embodiment of the tourism industry. downtown. It has always been a crowded city center and has always been attracting tourists, but it’s completely different from before, ”she said. “As long as these bars are open, they’ll attract tourists who want a good time and don’t care about wearing masks and getting together – all that scientists are advising against. . “

The small bar owners also began to speak up. The owners of Dee’s Country Cocktail Lounge, Fox Bar & Cocktail Club, and Chopper Tiki – once forced to shut down since March – held a press conference recently asking the mayor to enforce health regulations. healthy in the city center. While some pubs and restaurants remained closed, such as Robert’s Western World, Acme Feed & Seed, and Southern Steak & Oyster, other beverage establishments circumvented the law by classifying them as restaurants.

Amy Richardson, the owner of Dee, a bar and live music venue favorite by locals like Margo Price, called it “a head-on slap in the face of all of us who have comply with the rules ”.

“The feeling of the city is [Broadway] Winning everyone. Keep the money flowing and there’s nothing outside of that, ”says Richardson.

She and her husband, Daniel Walker, took disaster loans to keep their bar afloat and are redesigning a beer garden in the backyard with social considerations as they are allowed to reopen. again. None of them know when that might happen. “Fortunately for us, our monthly costs aren’t too high,” Walker said. “But [with] Some bars and locations, that is not the case. They have sky-high rents and can’t keep throwing money at their landlords ”.

The Nashville music community is also beginning to move, with artists like the Caylee Hammack, Maren Morris and Cassadee Pope voicing their support for small businesses and bars in the neighborhood. “I understand that the travel trap is our money [maker]But if you kill all of the locally owned businesses, in the end, you’re not really helping anyone, ”says Hammack. Rolling Stone.

“Broadway bars that capitalize on these loopholes are now cannibalizing our Nashville small businesses who have been following the medical order since day one,” Morris tweeted on August 4. .

Paramore singer Hayley Williams, a longtime Nashville resident, spoke face to face with tourists. “Please don’t go to Nashville. She said in a video on Instagram. “If you really believe in Nashville, don’t come here until this damn thing is done.”

Slowly, icy, message seem to be getting through. The city center, downtown and the Gulch neighborhood – all hot tourist spots – have very little pedestrian traffic on Sunday afternoon. While there were diners on several courtyards and rooftops, Broadway bars like Tootsie’s and Kid Rock’s were closed. Among the pedestrians who had been out, about half were properly masked – a statue of Elvis in front of the gift shop wore a mask to aid identification.

But skeptics like Crowell remained skeptical. While she was encouraged to see Broadway move in a safer direction, she stressed that this progress does not fix what’s happening elsewhere in the city, away from the tourist epicenter. Richardson’s Dee’s Lounge and others like it were still closed, and Nashville is still recording new Covid-19 cases on a daily basis. The Nashville Health Department added 190 new cases on Sunday, bringing the Davidson County total to 22,904.

“City leaders have responded to our pressure and outrage, and as a result the lower Broadway party scene is moving in a safer direction,” Crowell said. “Broadway bars continue to be a lumbering wheel, getting more grease each weekend – resources, media coverage and city dollars. While I respect the new efforts to create a safer area, I’m adamant that the rest of Nashville is treated with the same importance as the city center and that the people who live here are privileged. more than the visitors. “

There is at least a glimmer of hope. On Sunday, Crowell’s petition passed its 25,000-signature target.

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