Oct 19, 2021 - News
Transportainment's moment of truth in Nashville
party bus
A 'Music City Party Tub' bus drives past the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

Efforts to rein in Nashville party buses will face a critical test tonight.

  • A popular bill to regulate large entertainment vehicles is scheduled to come up for a final vote, but first the lead sponsor is considering some last-minute changes.

Why it matters: Transportainment is the latest symbol of Nashville's complicated relationship with tourism.

  • Locals have clamored for regulations on the large, open-air vehicles. Industry figures have pushed back against proposed rules they say would run them out of business.
  • The outcome tonight will shape the future of that debate — but it certainly won't mark the end.

The details: Metro Council member Freddie O'Connell filed an ordinance with the backing of the Nashville Convention and Tourism Corp. that would give the city a say on party bus operators, routes and hours of operation. O'Connell's legislation would also put limits on loud music onboard.

  • The legislation would lay the groundwork for regulating alcohol on the buses. Additional legislation would be needed to hammer out detailed rules regarding alcohol.
  • The bill proved massively popular with the council, getting unanimous support during an early vote two weeks ago.

Driving the news: O'Connell said he would propose tweaks to the bill before the final vote at tonight's council meeting in an attempt to address concerns from party bus companies.

  • Negotiations about specific changes could continue until the last moment.
  • One possible change would reduce the amount of insurance coverage required for companies.

Between the lines: O'Connell described the compromises as a strategic attempt to strengthen the legislation and stave off interference from lawmakers in the Republican-dominated General Assembly.

  • "I think it's in the best interest of the city to try and legislate in a way that we can protect from one of the most preemptive state legislatures in the nation," O'Connell told Axios.
  • The party bus companies have signaled their willingness to challenge city regulations in court.

What to watch: Because O'Connell's changes are coming late in the legislative process, it would only take two objections from other Metro Council members to reject them.

  • In that case, it would be up to O'Connell to decide if he wants to pursue a vote on an earlier version of the bill or defer the vote to fine-tune a compromise.

What they're saying: Mayor John Cooper's spokesperson Andrea Fanta told Axios the mayor's office was working with the council to address "the problems of noise, traffic congestion and rowdy behavior." But she said there were "some concerns" over O'Connell's latest proposed changes.

  • Fanta said the office would "continue to work with (the) Council and the community to find the best solution for our city."
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