Nashville tourism chief kicks off three bus companies.
The Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp. disabled the membership of three entertainment vehicles earlier this month as the tourism organization lobbied for regulation of entertainment vehicles.
The NCVC informed the three companies that their memberships became “inactive” on September 8. Those who had already paid annual dues were refunded and those whose membership was due for renewal were not renewed.
“At a time when the NCVC strives to regulate this class of party buses and tractors, we didn’t think it was fair to keep paying for their membership,” said Butch Spyridon, Chief Executive Officer of the NCVC, in a statement to the Tennessean. “In the interest of fairness and not to sound hypocritical, our board of directors felt this was an appropriate step. We look forward to working with these companies again in the future.”
Companies with deactivated subscriptions are The Nashville Tractor, Honky Tonk Party Express, and Upstage Party Bus. Annual membership fees depend on benefit levels, according to the NCVC. Disabled businesses paid fees ranging from $ 595 to $ 1,950.
“It will hurt a lot of employees if they decide to do anything to the transportation industry,” said Patrick Kludac, co-owner of Upstage Party Bus, of the recent discussion on taxation. local regulations. Kludac declined to comment further. The Nashville Tractor and Honky Tonk Party Express did not immediately return requests for comment.
Spyridon and other top business and tourism leaders have expressed concerns that party vehicles – big and small – are choking Nashville’s Lower Broadway corridor. Vehicles have proliferated in the downtown entertainment district in 2021 following the end of pandemic closures.
A 22-year-old tourist fell from the railing of a party bus on Lower Broadway and was then run over by the vehicle in July, just weeks after Spyridon warned “it’s not if, this is when , someone is going to fall from one of the vehicles. “
The incident reignited calls for regulatory action from community members and government officials.
In late August, Spyridon joined Nashville Area Chamber President and CEO Ralph Schulz and Nashville Downtown Partnership President and CEO Tom Turner in a letter asking Metro’s Transportation Licensing Commission to suspend the approval of additional pedal vehicles, including pedal taverns.
“The proliferation of slow-moving vehicles and cars, in addition to other forms of entertainment transport vehicles outside your authority, has overwhelmed the city center and created undesirable and untenable conditions for safety, traffic jams and noise.” , Spyridon, Schulz and Turner’s letter shown.
The commission unanimously rejected all new requests for pedal vehicles on August 26 in response to their letter and similar statements from city officials.
State law currently prevents cities from regulating vehicles with 14 or more passengers, including party buses and other large entertainment vehicles that frequent downtown Nashville. Lawmakers in the Democratic states of Nashville are pursuing legislation in the 2022 session to change that.
Still, Nashville officials want to go ahead and try to regulate aspects of businesses locally anyway.
Metro Council members have filed local ordinances to regulate certain aspects of the industry that may fall under local control: alcohol consumption as well as noise and safety measures.
A Metro Council bill tabled last week seeks to subject entertainment vehicles to local regulations, requiring permits for vehicles and drivers, approval of routes and compliance with operating standards. It would also ban alcohol in unclosed party vehicles and impose noise limits.
Council member Freddie O’Connell, the author of the bill, said he would put tractors, mobile hot tubs and party buses that frequent downtown Nashville “on regulatory parity” with smaller vehicles like pedal taverns, which already require certification from the city’s Transportation Licensing Board. operate.
The bill, which had 22 co-sponsors on Monday at 4 p.m., will debut at Tuesday’s metropolitan council meeting. It would take three readings before it goes into effect, and that could be an uphill battle – at least three previous attempts to pass local entertainment vehicle regulations have failed.
Another bill introduced by council member Sean Parker seeks to ban motor vehicle passengers from consuming or possessing open alcohol containers, thus ending the consumption of alcohol on party buses and in all other vehicles. This bill will be presented to the Metro Council on Tuesday for its second reading. Parker’s Bill has four co-sponsors.
Contact reporter Cassandra Stephenson at [email protected] or (731) 694-7261. Follow Cassandra on Twitter at @ CStephenson731.