Businesses, bars badly need tourists to bounce back from Broadway shutdown

Special Reports

Broadway on the Brink

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A sign of different times, rewinding weeks ago, downtown Music City was a lively as it’s ever been. Pedal taverns and party buses offered a one-of-a-kind roll down Broadway, unique to Nashville. Then COVID-19 slammed on the brakes. 

“Nashville depends on tourism, with everything shut down it’s literally killed everything,” said Curtis Carney, who operates Off The Wagon Tours.

Carney’s company has canceled all bookings since the first week of March. Workers are on unemployment. Like the other pedal taverns and party buses, Carney is at the mercy of the city and the people, to come back.

“You take the tourism away, the city doesn’t have anything,” said Carney. “We need to welcome them back and celebrate what actually Nashville is.” 

Empty and out of order, Broadway can’t go on like this. And the future won’t be much better, Carney believes, without major changes. “When people come back they’re not going to be able to spend $350 a night on a hotel room, they’re not going to be able to come in and drop the same money that they did,” said Carney. 

Barrett Hobbs owns several bars on Broadway, like Whiskey Bent Saloon, and he sees it similarly. 

“Not everybody is going to say let’s go to Nashville, hell their towns are devastated,” said Hobbs.  

Hobbs doesn’t recognize the way Broadway looks today. “It kind of reminds me of 6 a.m. right after sunrise on a Sunday morning…But that [usually] doesn’t last but about two hours.” 

Hobbs says initially he was in denial at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s now a growing fear, as the silence downtown has become deafening.

“The longer this goes the less likely all the bars and restaurants, even in the Broadway area, people think we are bulletproof down there,” said Hobbs. “There’s a hell of a lot of investment that’s tied up.” 

While Hobbs and other bar owners’ hands are tied. These small businesses haven’t received a dime in federal money, and no help locally.  

“The engine of Nashville and tourism is Broadway. Why is no one getting any help, nobody seems to have that answer.” 

To give Broadway its beat back, the people have to come back. According to Hobbs, it may be the younger tourists they see first. That sign of life would be something to bank on, without it, it may mean a slow death for Lower Broadway.

How will one of Nashville’s most vibrant areas rebound? Bar owners open up about their concerns as News 2 looks at Broadway on the Brink. Click here to read more.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.


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