NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Crowds flocked to Lower Broadway in downtown Nashville over Labor Day weekend, which led Mayor John Cooper to close a portion of the road to traffic to allow more space for social distancing.
The city closed Lower Broad between Fourth and Fifth avenues from 6 to 11 p.m. Sunday so pedestrians could spread out while waiting in line to enter reduced capacity restaurants and bars.
The decision came after thousands of people packed Broadway’s bars, restaurants and sidewalks Saturday night, creating the largest crowds Broadway has seen since the pandemic began.
Some Metro Council members are in favor of permanently closing Broadway to traffic, but it would take more than just passing a bill at a meeting.
Councilwoman Emily Benedict tweeted that she wrote a proposal a few months ago that would close Broadway from First to Fifth avenues from noon Friday to Sunday at midnight.
However, it is not up to the council, but rather the Tennessee Department of Transportation, since Broadway is a state highway.
Councilman Freddie O’Connell, who represents downtown Nashville, said he isn’t certain the people who live and work there would be supportive but he still wants to find an effective way to control the crowds.
“I saw pictures from Saturday night and honestly, it did not seem as out-of-control as what we saw on Friday. It looked like people were appropriately distanced, it looked like people were generally observing the mask mandate. It’s tricky, right? I think you go down there at the right time and you see postcards Nashville probably doesn’t want to send. You go down there at other times and you are like ‘OK, it looks like people are observing this in good faith,'” said O’Connell.
O’Connell said the city has hit roadblocks on the same or similar issues before.
“We’re several years stalled on a sidewalk expansion project, we’re three years deep in sort of a fiscal crisis for Metro that existed before COVID-19. We’re stuck there. We’ve tried to already expand the available pedestrian right of way over the past couple of weeks, which seems to have gone well. But again, everybody saw Friday night and basically the conclusion was this is too many people crowded into too little space,” explained O’Connell.
Councilwoman Benedict plans to introduce the bill at the next Metro Council meeting. It would need to pass three readings.
Neither Mayor Cooper nor the Metro Public Health Department have said whether or not they will shutdown Broadway again in the near future.
Butch Spyridon, president and CEO, Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, released a statement on the proposal, which reads:
“While we agree that Lower Broadway needs to be viewed through a different lens, we would encourage business owners, health department officials, the Mayor’s Office and the Metro Council to work together to develop a unified plan. The patchwork approach is not working.”Butch Spyridon
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