TN: Nashville has banned alcohol on open-air party buses, so some operators are turning to plexiglass
By Damon Mitchell and Tony Gonzalez
December 1, 2021
If you were to take a ride on one of the Nashville Tractor’s party wagons a few days ago, it was nothing to sip a beer and catch the breeze of downtown Nashville. Now, that’s no longer possible.
A new ordinance banning open containers of alcohol on unenclosed party vehicles is forcing party vehicle operators to shake up the way they’ve been running their businesses.
“I think we’re targeted. People come to Nashville to have a good time and to party,” says Christy Patterson, president of the Nashville Tractor. “We’re the biggest thing out there. So, obviously we’re going to have the most eyes on us.”
Patterson says the company supports safety regulations — and has pushed for them in the past — but wants the rules to be fair. The company, she says, has already spent $25,000 enclosing just one of its wagons. It’ll cost that same amount to enclose its other vehicles.
“We’re 100% invested in this company. It’s not just a hobby for us,” she says. “We’re obviously going to do what we’re required to do.”
Before the city’s new ordinance, Patterson says, safety was already a top priority for the company. She says people who presented a safety hazard, or drank too much, were immediately removed from the Nashville Tractor’s party wagons.
On an average day, the company has about 30 to 35 riders on each wagon, and is booked from the morning up until about midnight. The company’s wagons, she says, have never been a place where riders could do whatever they wanted to do.
“I think the number one goal for anyone in this industry is to keep their staff employed,” she says. “We didn’t want to spend $25,000 to enclose a wagon, but we knew that we had to do that to make sure that everyone of our employees took home a paycheck.”
The new ordinance was passed by the Metro Council in October. It came after an increased push for regulation following the death of a 22-year-old tourist, who fell off a party bus and was run over by it in July.
Compliance will be monitored by city police and staff from the Transportation Licensing Commission and the Metro Beer Board. They say they’ll be reminding businesses and patrons of the new rules at pick-up and drop-off spots. Violations carry a $50 fine.