You can now make music at home in Music City
BY JUSTIN OWEN
As one of our best one liners, for years we have said that “it is illegal to make music at home in Music City.” Nashville, a city most known for bootstrapping fledgling musicians, imposed the nation’s most stringent ban on home businesses. No one—including recording studios—could operate a home business that saw even a single client in the home. In late 2017, Beacon and our friends at the Institute of Justice teamed up with two home business owners to fight back against this egregious law.
Lij Shaw had operated a successful home studio, recording for the likes of Jack White, Wilco, Adele, and the Zac Brown Band. But when a neighbor was denied his own home business permit, he filed a complaint against Lij, shutting his business down despite no actual violations of traffic, noise (I mean, it is a sound-proof room we’re talking about), or any other laws.
Pat Raynor, a lifelong hairstylist, sought to work from home after her husband Harold passed away after a decade-long battle with a debilitating medical condition left Pat with extensive medical bills. She undertook an expensive renovation to her home to open up a hair salon that met all of Tennessee’s health and safety standards and would welcome just a few clients a day. Then one day, she too was threatened with fines unless she stowed away her scissors.
Unfortunately, we did not win in court. And while we are currently appealing the ruling, there has been an even quicker breakthrough. In an age when more Americans are working from home than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this became a pivotal moment for change. Why on earth did it make sense for the government to force some people to work from home while simultaneously banning others from doing so?
Finally rectifying this wrong, the Metro Nashville Council voted last night to allow home businesses, with some reasonable restrictions on the number of clients one can see each day, along with parking, noise, signage, and other limitations. This new law protects the residential character of our neighborhoods while allowing thousands of businesses to legally operate from home. After all, isn’t that the American Dream?
Kudos to the 26 Council members—led by Dave Rosenberg—for fighting to defend that dream in a time when having a source of income is both more difficult to come by and more important than it ever has been. And kudos to Lij and Pat (who is cutting my hair in her home salon next week) for their long and difficult journey to freedom, not just for themselves but also for thousands of their fellow Nashvillians.