NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On any given day you can see party buses and bars on wheels sharing the road with cars and pedestrians along Broadway.
Many say we asked for it.
“In a way we’ve become victim of our own success,” Jeff Syracuse says, a Metro Council member. “Nashville has grown so quickly, so fast.”
Tuesday night, Syracuse, and the rest of the Metro Council members took up the first of three votes on legislation that would regulate the $60 million industry with 1.5 million riders annually.
Michael Winters, the president of the Nashville Transportainment Association, feels he’s been betrayed. Again, it’s what the city wanted, he says. A booming downtown, with a number of tourists.
“You invited what you’re now complaining about,” Winters says, adding that the legislation is a knee-jerk reaction to what he says is one incident where a man fell off of a party bus and was nearly hit.
“We’ve never had a single person fall off a vehicle expect for one guy in a course of 10 years,” Winters says. “Compare that to any industry downtown, and we’re stellar as a safety record goes.”
Even so, many council members, city leaders, and even residents believe the entertainment vehicles have gone too far.
“We know how this story ends,” Freddie O’Connell, the bill’s sponsor, said. “Short-term rentals, golf carts, scooters, and now party buses. When left to their own devices, too many operators in our destination industry ignore safety and the quality of life of the people who live and work in Nashville. With BL2021-911, we’re trying to get our arms around a problem that is unsafe, obnoxious, and frankly embarrassing.”
O’Connell’s bill covers everything from permits, licensing, use of alcohol and amplified sound.
Overall, if passed, it would attempt to crack down on the downtown party; not the bars, but the one’s on wheels. And it would make party buses, tractors, wagons and rolling hot tubs play by the same rules as pedal taverns.
“Ninety percent of the regulation is fair and fine, but they put two things in there that weren’t designed to be regulation; they were designed to be annihilation. And, those two things were you can’t drink and you have to sit down,” says Winters, adding if those two don’t exist, the industry goes extinct.
“Everybody wants tourism to succeed, but let’s do it in a reasonable and safe way,” Syracuse asks. “I think [O’Connell] has taken the approach of start with heavy regulation and work backwards. Tonight, we have the opportunity to begin a collaborative relationship with the state. We need the state to pass a bill that allows us to have the local autonomy to be able to regulate these transportainment vehicles.”
As News 2 reported before, the city has limited authority to regulate party buses, that’s up to the state and until legislation passes, that won’t change.
“We expect it, and we’re working with city leaders, state leaders, city lobbyists to draft a regulation that makes sense,” Winters said.
If the bill passes all three votes, it will head to the state.