TN - Lawmakers propose liquor, beer to-go cups for downtown Nashville bars
State lawmakers are proposing to allow downtown Nashville bars to sell to-go cups of liquor and beer.
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville, and Rep. Mike Turner, D-Old Hickory, however, has been met with immediate opposition from the owners of some downtown honky tonks.
Ruble, Brenda and Brad Sanderson, who own several honky tonks, including one of lower Broadway’s most popular music venues, The Stage, said they were concerned about the bill’s unintended consequences.
The bill would allow bars in the central business improvement district, which encompasses areas like lower Broadway and Second Avenue, to sell to-go cups of beer and liquor, which patrons could take onto sidewalks and into other bars.
The bill was introduced at the request of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp., which said the proposal is for year-round to-go cups. The CVC, which believes the measure would boost tourism dollars, met with downtown business owners on Monday to discuss the proposal, spokeswoman Leigh Anne Sanders said.
“None of us are interested in changing the formula that makes lower Broad one of the most authentic places in the world,” CVC President Butch Spyridon said. “We believe this bill could help but (we) won’t know until we discuss it. I look forward to continuing these discussions with the business community.”
The Sandersons, however, argued that to-go cups at downtown bars would not help tourism and actually would hurt the city’s image.
“One should also ask the numerous other merchants in the area that do not sell alcohol if they would like to deal with people consuming alcoholic beverages on sidewalks in front of their businesses,” the Sandersons, who also own Legend’s Corner, Second Fiddle and Nashville Crossroads, wrote in an email Friday to several downtown business owners. “Will the gift shops, dress shops and boot stores have to hire ‘doormen’ to keep the beverages out?”
Councilwoman Emily Evans urged her Facebook friends Saturday to let state lawmakers know if they oppose the bill.
“Allowing To Go cups would mean a person of age could purchase the drink in a To Go cup and then pass it off to a minor outside,” Evans wrote. “Police would be in the position of carding everyone with a red (Solo Cup) which takes valuable resources away from other aspects of their public safety mission.”
In a phone interview Monday, Evans added, “I don’t want downtown to become a place where parents have to instruct their children, ‘You can’t go there.’ ”
Under the proposal, the to-go containers would be provided by the state beer board and all bars would be required to use the same cups.
Metro Council would still have to pass an ordinance allowing the to-go cups if the General Assembly approved the law. Beale Street in Memphis is one prominent example of a Tennessee party district that allows such to-go cups.
“The Mayor values the importance of Lower Broadway to Nashville’s appeal as both a tourist destination and a place where locals can enjoy great music,” said Janel Lacy, a spokeswoman for Mayor Karl Dean’s office. “Any change in law regarding liquor and beer will need to balance the interests of the hospitality industry and public safety.”
The legislation is scheduled to be considered in the House State Government Committee this week.
Reach Nate Rau at 615-259-8094 or on Twitter @tnnaterau.