Lower Broadway business owners band together to address issues as tourism industry grows

Posted at 4:21 AM, Feb 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-20 05:21:20-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The sights and sounds of Lower Broadway attract millions of tourists to Nashville each year.

"Tennessee is just all about live music and that is what Broadway celebrates," said Rob Mortensen, previously the President and CEO of the Tennessee Hospitality and Tourism Association.

The businesses that make up the area employ thousands of people and generate millions in tax revenue, but owners worry that's not the story being told.

"I think several things that were highlighted over the last couple of years where you've got, you know, pedal taverns and people falling out, and our folks are not those folks and yet they want to make sure that folks don't see that kind of stuff and think 'oh this is Broadway'," said Mortensen.

That concern has led to the formation of the new Broadway Entertainment Association - a group of more than 20 business owners around Lower Broadway.

"So there's just a lot of changes that happened during COVID and I think our folks felt like they didn't have a voice," Mortensen said.

The group also wants to be involved in policy conversations. With this year's legislative session underway and changes coming to Metro's leadership, the BEA hopes to have an active voice.

Among the members is Barrett Hobbs who operates several downtown businesses like Doc Holliday's Saloon, Bootleggers Inn and Whiskey Bent Saloon.

"There's been a pretty common theme on the street that maybe the authenticity of Broadway and the protection of the live music is under attack," said Hobbs.

He pointed out the role Lower Broadway plays as an economic engine for the city.

"So you may not like what we're doing on a Friday night but without us, there's going to be a big gap in some budget across the city and the state," said Hobbs.

With the help of city departments and local leaders, members of the BEA hope to preserve Lower Broadway's culture in an ever-evolving city.

"Without live music and a safe clean environment we just kind of become 'Anywhere USA' and we need to be Music City USA," said Hobbs.