Nashville party buses to face new regulations after Metro Council vote

Posted at 8:33 PM, Oct 19, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn — New regulations are coming for Nashville party buses and entertainment vehicles after a Metro Council vote.

Metro Council voted 33 to 3 to approve a bill that will allow the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission (MTLC) to oversee a permitting process for the vehicles.

Entertainment vehicles would need a certificate and permit from the MTLC to operate. Drivers and business operators would also be subject to background checks. The bill also restrict open containers of alcohol on "unenclosed" party vehicles. Entertainment vehicles would also be subject to random safety and maintenance inspections, and must abide by noise regulations. The MTLC would also establish routes or zones where the vehicles can operate.

Discussions on safety regulations for the entertainment vehicles heated up after a 22-year-old tourist fell off a party bus and was run over on Lower Broadway in July.

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Butch Spyridon, president and CEO if the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp., and Tom Turner, president and CEO of the Nashville Downtown Partnership, have supported the bill prior to the vote. The group Safe Fun Nashville, and students at Hume-Fogg High School have also called for stricter safety regulations.

However, Steve Smith, Owner of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Honky Tonk Central, Rippy’s, The Diner, Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk & Steakhouse in downtown Nashville held a press conference Monday before the vote opposing the legislation. He said the transpotainment vehicles should be allowed to operate because they provide additional entertainment options for tourists, and generate tax dollars for the city.

The vote was the latest of several attempts to allow Metro to regulate party vehicles. Tennessee state law currently dictates that commercial for hire vehicles that carry 14 passengers or more are not subject to local oversight.

However, Council Member O'Connell said after the vote, he would like the state to pass legislation removing the ambiguity about Metro's authority to regulate the vehicles. He said if that didn't happen, he expected lawsuits would be filed.

The alcohol regulations of the bill go into effect in Dec. 1. The remaining changes will be implemented in April of 2022.