Safety for Musicians and Downtown Nashville/Broadway Workers

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Nashville is currently one of the fastest growing cities in America, and a lot of that growth is occurring in Nashville's downtown district. Lower Broadway is Nashville’s most well-known tourist attraction, but it's also where a lot of locals go for work: bartenders, security guards, and musicians. Unfortunately, a lot of these people, myself included, have growing concerns about their safety. 

It is becoming far too frequent that I am reading posts on Facebook from my fellow musicians stating they have been robbed while walking to/from their gigs on Lower Broadway, oftentimes at gunpoint. *scroll to the end to read a selection of incidents I compiled from the last few months* Not only are the perpetrators stealing their phones, cash and wallets, but they are stealing thousands of dollars (sometimes tens of thousands of dollars) worth of musical equipment. I am scared for myself and I am scared for others - this is our livelihood and we shouldn't be in a constant state of fear that we're going to be attacked while simply trying to get to work and do our jobs, that ultimately bring a huge amount of revenue to the city. 

Musicians, bartenders and servers are walking targets for thieves in Downtown Nashville because everybody knows we work for tips and are therefore carrying cash at the end of the night.

For musicians specifically, there are two solutions that would help us feel safer against the increased crime rate:

  • Affordable Parking: [Prior to launching this petition, I was able to get in contact with Premier and SP+ Parking, who are the two parking companies with the heaviest presence downtown, in order to negotiate some affordable parking options for musicians. Both companies were incredibly helpful and supportive of finding solutions that benefited all parties. However, I still feel the city of Nashville should offer some sort of parking discounts in the lots they manage for musicians and other workers in the entertainment district, since we are the main reason tourists spend money on Lower Broadway.] Currently there are limited to no affordable parking options close to the venues we are playing on Lower Broadway. In order to find affordable parking, we have to park blocks and blocks, sometimes miles, away from the bars we are performing at, which makes us easy targets for these criminals, especially when we are carting our gear with us (since we are unable to use the loading zones on Broadway - see below)
  • Stop Taxis Parking in the Loading Zones: Back in 2011, “Musician Loading” signs were added to the loading zones on Broadway, which enabled musicians to pull up outside the venues, unload their gear and then park their cars elsewhere - thus ensuring their equipment was safe from theft, mitigating some of the safety concerns. However, in 2016/2017 when the sidewalk on Broadway was expanded and, as a consequence, the middle lane of traffic was removed, the city removed the "Musician Loading Zone" signs. As a result, the taxi-cabs have completely taken over the loading zones, generally parking there for extended periods of time, and the musicians are having to fight the drivers to be able to load/unload their equipment. There are countless videos and accounts on Facebook of musicians asking the taxis to move and they respond with threats and offensive gestures - which in turn is causing the musicians to become hostile towards the cab drivers. 

Dave Pomeroy, President of Nashville Musician's Association, has had numerous meetings with the Metro Police Department, the Taxi Commissioner, Public Works and Mayor John Cooper regarding the cabs parking in the loading zones. Unfortunately, the police department is severely underfunded and understaffed and just don't have the resources to deal with the taxis, in addition to their other tasks while on the job. The Transportation and Licensing Commission and the Taxi Commissioner are saying they can't do anything without the police intervening first - so it's a "catch 22" situation. 

Many people are quick to point fingers at the the Metro Police Department, but it doesn't take long to realise they are doing everything they possibly can with the funding and resources they have available. Over the summer, the department launched the 'entertainment district initiative', which puts a team of 17 extra officers downtown on weekends. The department would like to have those extra officers downtown on a daily basis, but they simply don't have the staff. As Mark Byrne, the Security Director for Tootsie's Orchid Lounge and several other Honky Tonk's, told FOX 17, "[The police department] are doing a fantastic job given the resources that they have available, they're being well-deployed, it's just, they're overwhelmed."

The time has come for the City to take action. Violent crime offences are up nearly 38% in the central precinct, which includes the downtown area, and this number is only going to rise if something isn't done. Live music, and thus the musicians performing, on Lower Broadway are an integral part of Nashville's tourism revenue, so at the very least they deserve to feel safe getting to and from work every day. Moreover, as the crime rate continues to increase and these incidents of theft at gunpoint become more and more frequent, the tourists are not going to want to come downtown, and all the investment into that area is going to be for nothing!

Examples of incidents that have occurred on Lower Broadway:

  1. Adam Rausche (Musician) - December 22nd 2019: Adam was robbed at gunpoint while getting into a vehicle, after finishing a gig on Broadway. His phone, the cash he had on him, his 68 Deluxe amp, his Stratocaster guitar, his pedal board and his lifelong collection of harmonicas were stolen. 
  2. Jim Dumford (Musician) and Patrick Darrah (Musician) - October 9th 2019: Jim and Patrick finished their gig at around 3AM and were walking back to Patrick's car, which was parked at the corner of Broadway and 2nd Avenue, when they were robbed at gunpoint by two men. The perpetrators stole approximately $400, but fortunately didn't manage to take any of the musical equipment. Later that morning, the attackers went on to rob a Ft Campbell soldier, which sparked a police pursuit.

  3. Chris Hill (Musician) - November 2019: Chris was playing at Loser's Downtown on a Saturday afternoon. When he'd finished the gig, he bounced around a few other bars, stopping in to see friends, watch some football and have a couple beers. At around 6.30pm he completely blacked out and all he can remember is being choked from behind in an alley just off Broadway, and someone taking everything from his pockets, which amounted to around $300 and his cell phone. He had a toxicology report done and the results came back proving he was drugged.

  4. Taylor Kavanagh and Lauren Wenberg (Bartenders) - January 15th 2019: Taylor and Lauren were maced and robbed while walking home on 3rd Avenue, between Broadway and Demonbreun in front of FGL House. The incident was caught on the FGL security cameras, but the couple who carried out the attack have still yet to be caught.