Axios Nashville

Picture of the Nashville skyline.
October 22, 2021

Good morning, everyone. It's Friday and the weekend is nearly cleared for takeoff.

πŸ‚ Today's weather: Cool and crisp, with a high of about 66.

Today's newsletter is 936 words β€” a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Burger Club earns cult following

A stack of burgers sitting on a picnic table.
Photo: Katty Danger, courtesy of Bad Luck Burger Club

COVID-19's stranglehold on the live music industry turned Andy Atkins' life upside down.

  • His work at a stage and lighting production company evaporated, so he started working odd jobs building decks and fixing motorcycles.
  • But Atkins' favorite way to pass the time was testing out burger recipes with his friend Cody Driggers.

Flash forward: Several months of tinkering led to a burger recipe that formed the bedrock of one of Nashville's up-and-coming business ventures β€” Bad Luck Burger Club.

  • Launched in May, Atkins and Driggers make simple, smashed-patty burgers in parking lots outside of local bars and other locations.

Why it matters: Within a matter of months, Bad Luck Burger Club became an underground hit, selling hundreds of burgers every weekend. It’s not unusual for them to attract lines with an hour-long wait.

What they're saying: "In the beginning we thought it was going to be a side hustle," Atkins tells Axios.

  • But now, as word of mouth spreads, bars are reaching out in advance to nab a spot on their calendar. Atkins says they have weekends booked into December.
  • "We have something really special that people are getting behind," he says.
  • "It makes you feel all gushy inside."

Between the buns: The burger recipe is deceptively simple. Two smashed patties, American cheese, pickles, caramelized onions, and secret sauce.

  • The burger club is a two-person operation for now. Atkins and Driggers smash the patties and chop the onions themselves.
  • They work under a tent. But Atkins has dreams of getting a food truck down the line.

Cult following: Atkins said a reliable group of regulars has started coming back weekly. The community is his favorite part of the new venture.

  • "More than just a cheeseburger, people need comfort and love and empathy," Atkins says. "I think that there is truly some of that happening at our cheesy little burger tent."

The details: Bad Luck Burger Club burgers are $8.

  • Tonight: Harding House Brewing Co., 6pm.
  • Tomorrow: Southern Grist Brewing Company in East Nashville, 4pm.
  • Sunday: Barrique Brewing and Blending, noon.

Plan accordingly: Atkins said they can sell out within a couple of hours.

2. Health Care leaders push to improve diversity

Illustration of a red cross animating into a not equal sign.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The Nashville Health Care Council this week announced a call to action in hopes of improving diversity, equity and inclusion within the industry.

Why it matters: Health care is Nashville's largest economic engine, but over the last year there has been a recognition within the industry that it needs to increase opportunities for underrepresented people.

  • Improving diversity, equity and inclusion has been a priority for the NHCC over the past year. The council formed task forces and developed an action plan to boost industry diversity.
  • To move forward, the council launched initiatives to track gender and ethnicity data among local health care companies. The council also audited its own venue and vendor selection process in an effort to boost partnerships with organizations that support underserved groups.

What they're saying: The NHCC's board of directors, which represent some of the nation's largest and most influential health care companies, on Wednesday issued a joint statement spelling out its commitments. The group said the goal is to do more than improve diversity in Nashville's health care industry, but also across the country.

  • 'We are committed to creating accessible leadership opportunities for underrepresented groups that advance DEI in the companies we lead," the board said. "Ultimately, our leadership should reflect the communities we serve."
  • β€œWe want to address and drive progress on the issues that matter not just in the Nashville health care ecosystem but across the nation," said Bobby Frist, NHCC board member and CEO, president and chairman of Nashville-based HealthStream.

3. All aboard

Map showing a complex web of train routes in the midwest
Image: Federal Railroad Administration

Federal authorities considering an expansion of passenger train service identified Nashville as a potential link to a robust network of train lines in the Midwest.

Zoom out: The Federal Railroad Administration's Midwest Regional Rail Plan, released last week, shows Chicago as the central hub of several routes that would stretch through the Midwest.

  • The report mentioned Nashville as a fast-growing city that could serve as a connection to the Southeast.

Why it matters: Tennessee leaders have expressed interest in other plans to expand passenger rail service into the area. Nashville's inclusion at the fringes of the new Midwestern plan shows federal officials are interested in the city's potential.

Yes, but: The plan represents a long-term vision that would take decades and extensive funding to complete.

4. The Setlist

Illustration of a chicken wearing sunglasses with fire reflected in the lenses.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ’° An audit of TennCare found that the state agency might have to refund as much as $767 million to the federal government. (The Tennessean, subscription)

πŸ” Eleven members of Congress called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Rutherford County juvenile justice system, following a WPLN-ProPublica investigation. (WPLN)

🦠 State officials say Tennessee can't pull out of a federal COVID-19 rule that got pushback from lawmakers. (Associated Press)

5. How we Halloween

Kids dressed up for Halloween grabbing candy
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Heading into our second pandemic-era Halloween, we would like to hear from our readers about how trick-or-treating and other festivities will be different this year.

  • In Nate's neighborhood last year, families rigged up clotheslines and plastic chutes to deliver candy, and children wore face coverings as they went door-to-door.

πŸ“¬ Reply or drop us an email at [email protected] to share safety precautions you expect to take for your kids and any other ways Halloween 2021 will be different.

🎡 While we're on the topic, we think it would be fun to fill our Music Monday playlist with Halloween-themed songs next week.

  • πŸŽƒ Scare up your most creative recommendations and send them our way.

πŸ‡«πŸ‡· Nate is re-watching as many Wes Anderson movies as possible before "The French Dispatch" comes out next week.

🎭 Adam is thrilled to be indulging his love of musical theater for the first time in too long by going to see "The Band's Visit" tonight.