Nashville’s new recreational vehicle regulation faces legal challenges from operators who claim it is an arbitrary licensing process with an impracticable set of rules.
As of August 31, four entertainment vehicle companies have filed lawsuits against Metro and the Metro Transportation Licensing Board (the body responsible for defining rules and issuing driving permits).
The commission nearly halved the recreational vehicle industry in its first-ever permitting process in June, giving a total of 89 of the 159 permits requested to reduce the number of vehicles on downtown streets. approved the permission of
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Mayor John Cooper, Police Chief John Drake, and representatives of several Nashville business and tourism organizations encouraged commissioners to dispose of unsealed party vehicles.
Honky Tonk Party Express, Nashville Party Barge, Nashville Underground and Gray Lion allege in separate lawsuits that MTLC denied permission without a rationale. His second application for the Honky Tonk Party Express challenges rules requiring vehicle enclosures, operating hours restrictions and insurance requirements.
“It seems clear that (MTLC) got the Mayor’s message loud and clear and that Mayor Cooper did what fiat money couldn’t do with rulemaking and permit allocation,” said Honky Tonk Party Express. The filing of said.
Cooper said Metro’s legal department is ready to defend the lawsuit.
“Come on, common sense regulation of entertainment transportation vehicles will help reduce traffic, keep noise down, make our streets safer, and improve the quality of life for Nashville residents,” Cooper said. He said in an emailed statement Wednesday.
Last year, new state and local laws made it possible to regulate Nashville’s recreational vehicle industry. The mayor-appointed nine-member MTLC has long regulated small vehicles, including pedal-powered taverns.
MTLC has granted 50 permits for tourist vehicles. Tourist vehicles are prohibited from consuming alcohol and can be outdoor vehicles as long as all passengers are seated. Another 39 permits were sent to entertainment transport vehicles that allow alcohol consumption on board and must be enclosed.
The lawsuit, first reported by the Nashville Post, will test the viability of the new rules.
Metro legal director Wallace Dietz said the limit was “within Metro’s ability to regulate the industry in the public interest” and that Metro was “confident that its enforcement would be confirmed in court.” ‘ said.
Permit process during fire
Honky Tonk Party Express is the largest company in the entertainment vehicle sector in Nashville. The company applied for 35 vehicle permits in June, 12 for recreational use and 5 for tourism.
The business currently has 16 recreational vehicles in operation, with an additional 4 customized for use. The company’s lawsuit seeks permits for all 20 recreational vehicles.
The company claims that MTLC has effectively reduced its fleet by 25%, limited operating hours and cut about 40% of the business’s reserved slots, thereby “doubling down” its revenue. increase.
According to the lawsuit, the commission did not have a traffic impact investigation to base its decision to grant or deny the permit.
Diana Alarcon, director of the Nashville Department of Transportation, who is among those calling for a drastic reduction in recreational vehicle traffic, said a “Connect Downtown” study of transportation in Nashville’s urban center is underway. , to be completed by February 2023.
Alarcon said at a permitting meeting in June that companies that received permits this year will make further investments if studies show they need to further reduce the number of recreational vehicles on downtown streets. He said he was concerned that he might lose his permit.
Nashville Party Barge is asking the court to reverse the board’s decision to grant only four of the eight permits requested by the company.
“The MTLC granted permission to eligible applicants seemingly at random,” the lawsuit states.
The Nashville Underground, a Lower Broadway venue and bar, purchased a tractor and hay wagon last year with the aim of offering its patrons a “hayride experience.” However, according to court documents, the MTLC did not give him proper notice of the narrow application window in early April, and the venue missed the deadline to apply for a recreational vehicle permit.
The lawsuit alleges that the published MTLC meeting agenda was intentionally obscured to reduce the number of applicants. Nashville Underground’s appeal attempt fell through after MTLC’s attorneys said proper notice had been served.
Gray Lion LLC filed suit against the Commission in the Circuit Court. MTLC granted two of the nine permits requested by the company.
Other Regulations Objected
The Honky Tonk Party Express objected to the rule requiring recreational vehicles to be contained entirely in separate cases.
The company says enclosures make sense in cool weather from November to February, but temperatures from March to October make it impossible to enclose a car and air-condition it to a comfortable and safe level. Become.
Supply chain issues and technical issues will make it difficult, if not impossible, to meet the requirement by the Oct. 2 deadline, the company’s lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also cites an injustice between pedal-operated saloon regulations that may allow alcohol in unsealed vehicles and large recreational vehicles.
Honky Tonk Party Express said it “has not identified a market” for liquor liability insurance mandated by the new regulations, except for one company that may have a monopoly by offering insurance. rice field.
Honky Tonk Party Express has declared to the court that the rules regarding enclosures, hours of operation and liquor liability insurance are void and will enforce the rules at the heart of these issues in Metro until a ruling is rendered. asked to ban
A hearing on the Honky Tonk Party Express permit injunction is scheduled for September 6 at 2:00 PM.
Cassandra Stephenson is in charge of metro government for The Tennessean. Please contact her at email@example.com. Follow her Cassandra on her Twitter at @CStephenson731.