Full Throttle Ahead?


July 22, 2020 2:11PM

I wonder if anyone supportive of the broad shutdown of businesses in Nashville has seen their enthusiasm dampened after watching this video of a restaurant in Nashville being shut down? Sometimes our views about the necessity of a law are changed once we see what enforcement of that law looks like. 

“Do we have the stomach to enforce this law” really ought to be the first question asked before we pass a law. Regrettably, it rarely is.

To Nashville, there is a straight line between mandating something and obedience. It’s not so simple. When someone disagrees, you’ve actually got to send persons down armed with the power of the state to look another person in the eye and make them obey. Are we really willing to do that? If not, it might be something that should inform the passage of the law in the first place  Maybe some of the things we ban or demand might be less pressing if we considered how enforcement would look.

Take it in. Here we see the owner of Full Throttle Bar and Grille being shut down, not for unsafe practices, but because they aren’t one of the many types of businesses that fall under any of the many exemptions under the City’s shutdown order. Specifically,  because Full Throttle’s license was for “limited food and drink” (more than 50% sales from beverage) and not full service, the business must shut down no matter how safely it operates.

It is heartbreaking to hear the pain and anger in this man’s words. When he speaks of the need to pay a mortgage, commercial rent, and the food that’s about to expire, he speaks for millions of frustrated Americans. 

We all understand the need for reasonable safety measures. But in a time when we are asked to accept unprecedented exercises of governmental power, it is essential that the government draw reasonable lines.

If you are wondering what the percentage of food vs. drink has to do with tamping down the spread of COVID, you aren’t the only one. It simply is not a reasonable line to draw. The reason why Nashville, with all its frequent professions of loyalty to be guided by SCIENCE,  has drawn an decidedly arbitrary line is all about politics. It’s one thing to affect Full Throttle. It’s another to affect national restaurant chains. Those guys have lobbyists.

If Nashville wants its exercise of such broad sweeping powers to be seen as legitimate, it needs to be seen as an honest broker. We have seen anything but responsible governance out of Metro Nashville, and Full Throttle is a prime example of that. Exempting businesses for reasons utterly removed from keeping the public safe is the latest in a run of irresponsible choices. The city was perfectly willing to subordinate combatting the pandemic when its leadership class decided protests were in order. Even afterwards, Metro was really willing to run with “protests don’t spread corona” as if the virus cares about the difference between church and a protest. 

When Nashville can afford such indulgences, one might question whether Nashville sincerely believes business closures are necessary to combat the pandemic in the first place. At the very least, it suggests that Nashville understands that it can allow for more nuanced approaches when it cares about the cost.

The inconsistencies are enough to make a person come unglued. They typify the actions of a leadership class that learned power, but not civics. In 1818, Thomas Jefferson said that a sound “spirit of legislation” would banish “all arbitrary and unnecessary restraint.” The city’s willingness to shut down Full Throttle is arbitrary and unsound in legislative spirit, however much it may be in keeping with the spirit of the age.