Special Rules for Special Groups…. Alcohol sales 23 hours a day? Two Nashville bars may get own law

Getahn Ward, The Tennessean

The Diner Nashville will open Friday, giving downtown its second new 24/7, seven-day-a-week eatery in just over four months.

The Diner Nashville is six floors of bars and dining tables with different options on each. It can hold more than 500 patrons. And it’s one of downtown Nashville’s few restaurants open around the clock.

Now, owners of the new SoBro establishment on Third Avenue South are close to adding a new distinction.

They’re one of two Nashville bar and restaurants lobbying for approval of state legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bill Sanderson, R-Kenton, and Sen. Thelma Harper, D-Nashville, that would grant them — and only them — the ability to sell alcohol for 23 hours a day. The only timethat would be off limits is from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m.

The bill is headed to the full House and Senate after it advanced in separate committees Tuesday.

Steve Smith, co-owner of The Diner Nashville, as well as Lower Broadway’s Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Rippy’s Bar and Grill and Honky Tonk Central, said the goal isn’t to keep the party going for Lower Broadway bar-hoppers. Instead, he said he’s trying to cater to a thriving downtown hospitality industry that includes bartenders, waiters, hotel workers and others who work late and get off in the wee-hours of the morning.

“There’s a lot of people who work downtown, they get off work, and they have nowhere to go for a drink, a breakfast, Baileys and coffee, anything of that nature,” Smith said. “And No. 2, if you’re staying in a hotel and you go back to your room and you want a midnight breakfast or room service, you can’t get it. And the hotels are the key to this city.”

The bill was written explicitly for The Diner Nashville, but a newly added amendment would give the same allowance to Scoreboard Bar & Grill on Music Valley Drive near Opryland, owned by Barrett Hobbs, who also owns Bootleggers Inn, Whiskey Bent Saloon and Doc Holiday’s in downtown.

Under state law, liquor-by-the-drink sales must currently stop at 3 a.m. and can begin again at 8 a.m. Metro prohibits beer sales in Nashville between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m.

The Senate’s State and local Government Committee voted 5-0, with two abstentions, to pass the legislation. The House Finance Ways and Means Committee approved the bill by a voice vote.

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