Bars to reopen in Nashville with limited capacity Monday


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) —New rules easing COVID-19 restrictions on Nashville bars go into effect Monday.

The bar industry in Music City has been pleading to reopen after weeks of forced closures by the city. But some bars are choosing to stay closed because of the capacity limitations.

Bar owners told News 2 that while they’re happy to get the ball rolling to reopen, but limiting capacity to only 25 people is not going to give them any profits.

“Hopefully the staff, which has been cut to about 18% of what we normally would have, hopefully they would make money. And maybe we could pay the electric bill, or the insurance bill or whatever else we can. But 25 people is not going to cut it,” The Red Door Saloon Owner Rick Clarke said.

The Red Door Saloon in Midtown will reopen their doors for the first time since July 2. Clarke hopes to prove to the city that bars and patrons can act responsibly for the next two weeks.

“I’m going to ask every restaurant, tour and bar owner to do the very best job they have ever done in running their businesses for the next two weeks. I’m also encouraging all Nashvillians to prove to the city and to the state, to the country, that people in Nashville know how to behave and do it the right way,” Clarke said.

Clarke is hoping if all goes well, the limit could go up to 25 or 50-percent in September. He believes the 25 person limit is unfair to bars that have multiple floors or outdoor spaces and it should be a percentage based capacity restriction.

“Our understanding is that if people behave, do what their supposed to, keep social distance, wash their hands, wear a mask when it’s appropriate that in two weeks there is a strong possibility that they will give us maybe more time to stay open and increase the number of customers that we may have,” explained Clarke.

Other bars on the block like Loser’s Bar & Grill and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge are choosing not to reopen because the limitation would not cover the overhead costs of staffing and utilities.

Emily Walker Hasty has tended bar at Tootsie’s for the last seven years so she is used to handling much more than a couple dozen customers by herself.

Walker Hasty said she was excited to hear Mayor Cooper was reopening bars, but then found out she still won’t be back to work.

“The way he [Cooper] keeps doing it, two weeks at a time and two weeks at a time, I can’t do anything like this at all. Just waiting to hear is literal torture, waiting to hear if I have my job back, waiting to hear if I can move on with my life, waiting to hear if I can pay off all these credit cards I have run up to try and get by,” explained Walker Hasty.

“We have to have a manger, we have to have security and at Tootsie’s, we work with officers as well just for extra added safety. So your talking about multiple added, people involved just to watch 25 people is not feasible for us to do,” added Walker Hasty.

Clarke hopes the city will recognize the effort they are putting forward to reopen the right way because if bars are shut down again, many will be forced to close for good.

All restaurants and bars must close to the public and empty nightly by 10:30 p.m. beginning Monday night, which is thirty minutes later than the current curfew in place, Mayor John Cooper said. He added to-go and curbside alcohol sales and open containers of alcohol are still banned in the Midtown and downtown Nashville areas, as defined last week.

The mayor advised current public health orders will also remain in effect through at least Aug. 31.

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