NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — With country music superstar Garth Brooks performing at his new bar on lower Broadway this week, and several other honky tonks under construction, we’re learning more about the role of Nashville’s first-ever director of nightlife and his responsibilities as Music City grows.
Benton McDonough was appointed by former Nashville Mayor John Cooper in December 2020.
The position was modeled off a similar program created in Amsterdam, and newly added to other cities, including Atlanta.
“Nashville is obviously a major metropolitan city now, and we need to get to a point where we’re able to provide services 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said McDonough.
McDonough said he serves as a liaison between business owners and residents, and their interactions between each other and with city government.
His said the goal is to support quality of life, as well as the thriving tourism industry.
“It’s trying to find the middle ground to determine how the parties will basically coexist,” said McDonough.
His stint started with a listening tour, visiting with these groups to learn more about their needs. Those conversations happened not only downtown, but throughout Davidson County in other popular and growing areas like East Nashville and Germantown.
Music City wouldn’t be what it is without live music. With that comes the noise pouring out of bars, restaurants and venues.
McDonough said he found Metro Nashville police officers had a difficult time communicating with each other through the noise on Broadway, so he’s working to manage those levels for safety purposes. A police substation is opening on Broadway next to Brooks’ new bar, which McDonough said will strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and business owners.
McDonough said he has also worked with street vendors who were operating without a permit and had noise complaints to get them under regulation. He said they want to work with businesses, without hindering their success.
“We understand that these business owners are trying to make a living like anyone else, but we also need them to understand that there’s running your business, and there’s also being a good neighbor,” said McDonough. “There’s that aspect of it, but there’s also the aspect that you’re living close to an entertainment district so there will be some noise.”
McDonough said some of his other projects have included adding lights under downtown bridges and widening ledges on rooftop bars to help prevent drinks and other items from spilling over.
In early 2024, McDonough’s office will be moving downtown from the Metro Office Building (800 Second Avenue South) to Second Avenue North and Commerce Street.
McDonough previously served as executive director of the Metro Nashville Beer Board and holds both positions for the foreseeable future. His salary was originally $138,000 a year and grew to $155,000 a year with this additional role and responsibilities.