Nashville Removes Sidewalk Advertisements

Posted at 10:36 PM, Jul 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-27 23:42:21-04

Metro Public Works sent a letter to downtown businesses on July 10 telling them they had until July 25 to remove any signs, advertisements, or other obstructions in the public rights-of-way, including sidewalks. 

The notification came after a provision in the Metropolitan Code already existed allowing the city to enforce the removal of signs from public rights-of-way. 

In the letter, Public Works said they are "going to start enforcing the clearing of public rights-of-way (particularly sidewalks) downtown." They let businesses know that if they had a sandwich board sign or any other private property obstructing the sidewalks, they would remove them. 

While most of the businesses downtown complied, some sandwich boards remained, as well as the porcelain Elvis' on both Broadway and 2nd Avenue. 

One advertisement that was taken off the street was the giant boot in front of Boot Country.

"The fact that it's inside now and no one gets to see it is kind of sad," Dakota Mashburn, a store manager, said. 

People have been known to take pictures in front of the giant boot, and according to Mashburn, it ushered business into the store. 

"it's a Nashville icon. People that come to Nashville, they look for the boot, they look for Elvis," Mashburn explained. 

According to Public Works and city officials, the advertisements impede pedestrian traffic and obstruct the rights-of-way, a growing problem in a busy downtown. 

"It kind of got into arms race territory," Metro Councilman Freddie O'Connell said, adding that businesses seemed to compete to see who could have the biggest, best, and flashiest advertisements. 

O'Connell said while the construction downtown doesn't help with the sidewalk issue, many people, including some business owners, have reported that the advertisements downtown have gotten out of hand. 

"You want to find the right balance," O'Connell said, acknowledging that things like the boot and Elvis help define Nashville. "But frankly, to me, we've had the balances shifted in the favor of some of those things that I would describe as obstacles, even as they are promoting those businesses." 

Some people argue that the signs line up with trash cans and trees downtown where people tend not to walk in the first place, and while there are people in favor of clearing the sidewalks, the folks at Boot country hope the decision is reversed. 

"I think it's a bad decision," Mashburn said. "It affects our business directly, and in turn, it affects tax dollars for the city. It makes a big difference whether or not the sidewalks are barren and there's nothing but people there as opposed to a really cool piece of art that sits on the sidewalks that everyone gets to enjoy." 

According to O'Connell, this code could also impact musicians down on Broadway who use up too much of the sidewalk and impede pedestrian traffic. He said while street musicians can add to the atmosphere of downtown, they need to make sure they're respecting the public rights-of-way and not setting up in a way that detracts from the atmosphere of downtown, like filling the sidewalk with a giant drum kit. 

Metro Public Works said that advertisements not removed from the sidewalks will be collected, and the businesses will have five days to retrieve them.

Of the businesses downtown that still have signs outside, several reported that they will not remove the signs from the street due to a potential negative impact on business, and they hope Public Works will allow their signs to remain.