The owner of Kid Rock's Big Ass Honky Tonk Rock N' Roll Steakhouse in Nashville reversed course late Monday and decided to close the bar and others he owns in the city's Lower Broadway area. Steve Smith first said he would not comply with Mayor John Cooper's orders to close all bars in Davidson County, calling the mandate "unconstitutional." As of Monday, there are 52 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Tennessee, including 25 in Davidson County alone, state health officials said.
"In cooperation with the Mayor's office, Tootsie's, Honky Tonk Central and Kid Rock's Honky Tonk have closed to help protect public health," Smith's rep said in a statement to Variety. "Rippy's and The Diner [restaurants also owned by Smith] will operate under the guidelines set forth for restaurants and take precautions to keep our staff and patrons safe. We hope to continue working with local officials to minimize the hardship this puts on our over 800 staff members and 300+ musicians."
Smith also owns The Diner and Tootise's Orchid Lounge, which are located in Lower Broadway, a spot popular with tourists. On Sunday, he said he would not follow Cooper's orders, accusing him of only targeting bars with the new rules. He said unless the state forced him to, he would remain open.
Other Nashville bars followed Smith's lead Sunday, but eventually decided to close on Monday night. Layla's Honky Tonk closed at 4 p.m. CT, while John Rich's Redneck Riviera planned to stay open until 9 p.m. CT.
Meanwhile, lawyers for the owner of Loser's Most Wanted Bar, Loser's Bar & Grill Downtown, Winner's Bar & Grill and DawgHouse Saloon, said those bars will close, but they will "keep evaluating all options and take appropriate legal action if necessary."
"We are concerned that the measures being taken by Metro arbitrarily single-out certain business based on alcohol sales, as opposed to applying a uniform policy equally to all food and beverage establishments," the layers said in a statement to WKRN. "Forcing some businesses to close entirely, while allowing others to continue serving patrons, even in a limited capacity, could very well be the difference between life and death for these businesses, which already operate on extremely tight margins, many restaurants are already exploring ways to continue to serve patrons in different ways, such as increased delivery and take-out options."
"Denying bars—all of which offer full menus—the same opportunity is not only arbitrary, but also unlawful," the statement continued. "At a time when Nashvillians are still reeling from the impacts of the tornado, Metro's action threatens an already fragile, but vital, segment of our local economy."
Dierks Bentley's Whiskey Row also closed Monday night. The country singer said he plans to give his 90 hourly employees $1,000 each for missed work.
On Sunday, Cooper had an emergency meeting with the Metro Board of Health,which approved his plan calling for all bars to close during the coronavirus outbreak. Cooper also ordered all restaurants to limit seating to less than 50 percent capacity and total occupancy to 100 people. Bar service at restaurants are allowed, but only to 50 percent capacity and no standing allowed.
The move came quickly after a video of a packed Nashville bar on Saturday night went viral. The video resulted in mounting criticism of Nasville bar owners, with even some country singers slamming the bar.
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