NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In late July, a Nashville tourist fell off of one of Music City’s infamous party tours and was run over by the wheels of the bus.
It’s an incident that has sparked an immediate call to action. Especially from city leaders, like Butch Spyridon, the President and CEO of the Nashville Convention and Visitors Corporation.
“We are going to fight like hell to regulate,” Spyridon said. “To me, the fun is gone. It’s just chaos. It’s like watching a train wreck, and you can’t turn away.”
Now, he’s hoping to turn the tables on Nashville party tours, or in Spyridon’s words, ‘unregulated rolling parties.’ “I saw one video where a car threw a beer at a person [in the party vehicle] and hit them in the head, I’ve seen joints being passed, and I’ve seen flashing.”
Spyridon said he has seen enough, adding that the vehicles are out of control and embarrassing. “You want to be known for being safe, friendly, and easy to consume. Well, we’re starting to lose some of those assets of really what built us.”
Spyridon, who’s been instrumental in building a Music City tourists know and love, added it’s important those tourists feel comfortable and safe. “More and more vehicles are showing up. and there’s no regard to capacity. there’s no regard to behavior, there’s no regard to underage drinking. there’s not regard period.”
According to Spyridon, as goes public safety, so goes Nashville’s reputation. However, he admitted the party tours are a byproduct of the city’s success, and he accepted some of that responsibility.
“I know I get a lot of blame, but we don’t regulate, license, or market those vehicles,” he said.
In fact, it’s the state’s job to regulate the vehicles. Metro only has control over party tours that are less than 10,000 lbs., like pedal taverns.
“We had a bill last session, it got rolled, so it’ll be back this session,” Spyridon explained. “The bill would strictly give Metro the authority to regulate.”
If that bill passes in 2022, Spyridon stated which regulations he’d like to see.
“We could address open container, we could address noise,” Spyridon said. “We’re not advocating that the vehicles go away. What we’re saying is, there has to be some behavioral and operational controls.”
He hopes it happens sooner rather than later, before someone else gets hurt, or even worse, killed.
Spyridon said his job now is to keep Nashville an attractive destination for tourists while also maintaining a good quality of life for residents.
“When our full load of conventions come back and collide with the behavior that’s going on, I think it’s going to cause a long-term problem,” Spyridon said. “A lot of businesses are moving out of the downtown core because of these vehicles.”
He continued, “We all believe you have to have the right balance of residents, visitors, and employees. We’re losing the employees, and I got to believe the residents are starting to question.”
It’s a balancing act that took 15 years to build and could come crashing down in one night, he said.
“It took a significant incident to get people’s attention, but somebody is going to die,” Spyridon said.
Its attention that’s gaining traction and Spyridon hopes prompts change.
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