More legislation and lawsuits expected for Nashville party vehicle regulation

Posted at 7:41 PM, Oct 20, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After years of being described as the wild, wild west, there may not be a new sheriff in town, but there are new rules for party buses.

Metro Council took sweeping action Tuesday night when it comes to party vehicles. Over the next several months, new rules will be put into place dictating where the vehicles can drive, how loud they can be and what they can serve.

The most significant change kicks in December 1st — no alcohol is allowed on party vehicles without a roof. Councilman Freddie O'Connell, the author of the bill, says alcohol may eventually return to party buses through a permit system, but until that's developed it'll be a sober ride. "Given how overheated this has become, a cooling off period is totally appropriate. Right?" said O'Connell.

The rest of the regulations, everything from permits to operate to seating requirements, begin April 2022. That will allow for Metro to write up the new rules of the road. "This was almost like the starting point for how we’d get -- like there’s a whole lot of work to do between now and April," said Councilman O'Connell.

But party vehicle owners are calling this an execution. "Well, the bill will do exactly what it’s designed to do, which is to annihilate the industry," said Michael Winters, Owner of The Nashville Tractor.

We interviewed Winter shortly before the state filed a cease and desist letter for storing alcohol illegally on his party vehicles. Winter tells NewsChannel 5 in a statement that he's reviewing the cease and desist letter and believes they did nothing wrong.

Winters says his biggest concern with the new regulations is regarding noise complaints. If his company is issued with three violations in one year, they would be forced to shut down, losing millions in revenue. "Fining someone 5 million dollars because their music is too loud three times in one year seems a little excessive to me," said Winters.

"The obvious answer to that is -- don’t violate the noise provisions," suggested O'Connell.

But just like the taming of the West, don't expect those under attack to go down without a fight. "You can guarantee there will be lawsuits to follow," said Winters.

One way party vehicle owners may be able to fight back is the fact under current state law, the state regulates any vehicle with more than 15 passengers. Councilman O'Connell is hopeful the state legislature will finally act during this upcoming legislative session. "Members of both parties seem pretty eager to get this done. Because I think too, they recognize this isn’t going to be only a Nashville issue, there are places from Memphis to Gatlinburg that are going to see activity like this occur," said O'Connell.