NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — After a video posted to social media showed crowded sidewalks on Broadway Friday night, tensions rose once again for bars that remain closed.
“It’s like obviously people don’t seem to understand that we’re in the middle of a pandemic,” Vice Mayor Jim Shulman said.
Downtown bars that do not get the majority of revenue from food were forced to close prior to July 4. But a record high in COVID-19 cases was reached last week.
“The numbers continue to go up after 17 days so the math doesn’t back that decision,” Bar Owner Barrett Hobbs said.
Metro Nashville remains in a revised phase two at least until the end of the month. And Metro Police began enforcing a mask mandate last Wednesday, specifically downtown.
Metro Police told News 2 since the enforcement started more than 5,200 verbal warnings have been given, but no citations have been issued. Each citation could hold up to a $50 dollar fine as a “Class C” misdemeanor.
“The only thing the city’s got left to do is put a big barbwire fence around lower Broadway and say no one can come through here,” Hobbs said.
Shulman said a solution needs to be reached to protect the city’s economy and for tensions to dissipate.
“This is where we all have to figure out a way to get along with each other, figure out what works and then do it,” Shulman said.
Hobbs said bar owners have been frustrated, feeling the focus is always on downtown.
“As operators down there we’re just shaking our heads. At this point we’ve almost just thrown our hands up and said ‘we don’t know what else to do,'” Hobbs said.
Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation, says Music City will never reopen if a workable solution isn’t reached soon.
“The vast majority of Nashville businesses are complying, and this makes all of us look bad and uninformed. We obviously have a sidewalk enforcement problem as opposed to a business problem,” Spyridon said.
Sypridon said he is working with the Metro Health Department to find the next level of enforcement.
Metro Nashville will remain in phase two until at least the end of July, but that could be extended if COVID-19 case counts spike again.