THE news story in Nashville since this summer has been pedal taverns. Specifically, how to regulate pedal taverns and party buses...and party tractors, and hot tubs, and hayrides, and the proverbial cornucopia of semi-different but really the same "transpotainment" options in Downtown Nashville.
As the city has opened back up in 2021 and tourists started flocking back to Music City, the number of those vehicles has increased exponentially, and after a man fell from the top of a party bus this past summer the regulations surrounding them has faced increasing scrutiny. Just a few weeks ago, students at Hume-Fogg Academic School downtown protested outside their school about the constant noise from "woo girls" interrupting their learning.
A Metro Council bill is expected to pass tonight that will allow the Transportation Licensing Commission to regulate the transpotainment industry.
But that's not all. The bill also proposes to reduce the number of these vehicles on the streets.
AND they would like to ban alcohol on the buses, tractors, and mobile hot tubs.
A party bus without alcohol? That's just...a bus.
The bill is expected to pass but then go through a series of amendments and revisions before it reaches it's final state.
An attorney for a group of transpotainment operators says "We support reasonable regulations, but we can’t get that."
Here's the thing, and this may not be a popular opinion to people who have lived in Nashville their whole lives. Those transpotainment vehicles? Kinda part of why Nashville is getting so much national attention.
The NFL Draft? NASCAR? Major League Soccer? A viable Super Bowl destination? Potentially a Major League Baseball team? Every major concert tour that you can possibly imagine? Those would have been pipe dreams in Nashville 20 years ago. Now, they're not only realistic...in many cases they're already a reality. And you know who's to partially thank for that?
The woo girls.
Now, obviously, it's a small piece of the puzzle. Broadway combined with a thriving food scene, cultural hotspots like East Nashville and 12 South, and big time tourist hotspots all play a huge part in Nashville becoming America's "It City" over the past decade. In 2019, tourism brought in $23 billion in spending to Nashville and nearly $2 billion in taxes. Those are huge numbers, rivaling other tourism hotspots like Las Vegas and New York City. And while the pedal taverns and party buses were just a piece of that puzzle, hundreds of thousands of riders spent their money on transpotainment in that same year.
Yes, they're kind of annoying. I've been stuck behind them in traffic plenty. Yes, there are probably too many of them (I very much question if anyone REALLY needs to ride down Broadway in an open hot tub that's been dipped in by hundreds of other people, but okay). You know what else they are?
There's this growing outcry from "old Nashville" folks that this debaucherous perception of Nashville is ruining the city that they grew to love. And I get it. I miss a lot of old Nashville too. But I also love having the opportunity to be at the center of everything. Seeing an NFL draft in my hometown was incredible. The possibility of seeing a Super Bowl or an Olympics in Nashville once seemed crazy...now it's not outside the realm of possibility. I never thought I might have a hometown MLB team that I could be a season ticket holder for. And that debaucherous perception is part of why those things are possible.
I keep hearing people say that they miss when people came to Nashville for country music and southern hospitality. Well, there's probably a pocket of tourists that still come for that. Or come for the food. Or come to visit the places where Johnny and Waylon and George have walked. But you know why most people come to Nashville?
To get drunk.
Sorry, Old Nashville. It's not the prettiest truth, but it's the truth. Nashville has become a Vegas-esque party capital of the South, with lines of tourists coming to let loose, drink, and do something they would never do back home...ya know, like line dancing...or riding a giant party tractor down a busy street. And if you kill that part of the tourism economy, you run the risk of another city taking on that mantle...and that money.
I get it. I agree there needs to be some regulation on all the party vehicles. People need to be safe - both those riding them and those driving around them. But stop loving the benefits of Nashville's growth while at the same time acting appalled as to how it's getting there. By all means, keep people safe. But let them party and enjoy the ride!