Nashville joins other cities that have debated issue.
Last-minute political maneuvering may keep downtown Nashville bar patrons from getting their red Solo Cups, filling them and hitting the streets, but it's not keeping them from debating the merits of that activity.
A bill that would have allowed Nashville's city council to decide how and where to let people drink on downtown streets is being narrowed to address only confusion about taking liquor among Music City Center, Omni Hotel and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The city promoted that perk in attracting conventions, said Butch Spyridon, president of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corp.
But there's just one hurdle: The state's consume-on-premises law forces drinkers to chug-a-lug before they leave an establishment.
Supporters didn't expect problems getting a more expansive area covered until Councilwoman Emily Evans blocked it last week, leading passage of a nonbinding resolution that said the council didn't support the bill. Spyridon was miffed because it stymied conversation about real issues in the rest of the entertainment district. He cited a Snap-on Tools convention where the organizers rented out four bars, got a permit to block off the street, and still conventioneers couldn't carry drinks from bar to bar.
"Suddenly there's a resolution, the sky is falling, the children are drunk, Nashville is Sodom and Gomorrah and we're all going to hell," he said.
There's a push by cities nationwide for to-go cups in entertainment districts, and many already have it — ones known for partying, such as Savannah, Ga., and New Orleans, and ones not-so-known, such as Huntsville, Ala., and Lincoln, Neb.
Councilwoman Erica Gilmore, who represents downtown, said she abstained from the vote on the resolution because she needs to learn more about the bill. Nashville Predators team President Sean Henry said much the same, but added he generally favors ways for visitors to spend more time wandering among downtown's offerings. Metro police say they haven't taken a stance on the bill.
And while one powerful Lower Broadway family — Ruble, Brenda and Brad Sanderson, who own The Stage and other honky-tonks —are on record opposing to-go cups, other owners heartily endorse the concept. Barrett Hobbs, a partner in Whiskey Bent Saloon, Silver Dollar Saloon, Doc Holliday's and Bootleggers Inn, contends there's already precedent.
The section of Metro code regulating open containers leaves room for people to walk the streets of downtown carrying plastic cups full of alcohol, as long as it didn't come from one of the bars. With a new law and special cups handed out at bars, Hobbs argued, police would know what's being carried around.
Spyridon confirmed he has asked if Solo might be interested in developing a special cup for that purpose but hasn't heard back.
It makes sense, given the popularity of Toby Keith's homage to Solo's product.