A number of Nashville-area businesses say they will defy Mayor John Cooper’s mandate to shut down over concerns about the coronavirus.
According to the CDC there are 18 confirmed cases of the virus in Tennessee — a state with a population of 6.7 million people.
“We are in it for the fight,” Bryan Lewis, attorney for Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge told NewsChannel 5. “We will continue business until a legal authority tells us we have to padlock our doors and shut down.”
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The mayor’s mandate calls for all bars throughout Davidson County to close until further notice. It would also ban restaurants from hosting more than 100 patrons.
Similar orders are being given in New York City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Honky-Tonks Say Order is Unconstitutional
A number of the popular bars, concert venues and honky-tonks in downtown Nashville said unless there is an official statewide mandate they will remain open.
“We have not been presented with any type of city or state financial assistance that would allow us freedom from having to pay property taxes and liquor taxes owed on products sold last month,” the Downtown Merchant Association said in a prepared statement. “Perhaps some operators will choose to close but the vast majority have said “the show will go on”.
Steve Smith, the owner of Tootsie’s and several other downtown eateries, questioned whether the mayor has a constitutional right to selectively shut down businesses.
“Unless there’s a statewide mandate that directs all bars and restaurants to be closed, the request made by Mayor Cooper is unconstitutional as he is targeting a select group of businesses,” he told television station WKRN.
The mayor’s decision is expected to be devastating to thousands of workers who rely on tips to pay their bills – not to mention hundreds of musicians.
“This is how I make my living, really, so I don’t have a backup plan, I don’t have vacation pay, or anything like that, so this is it for me, which I’m sure is like a lot of us down here, it’s all we do,” musician Jeff Duke told Fox 17.