Today, after previously suggesting that the mask mandate would continue, Metro Nashville allowed its indoor mask mandate to expire, and all capacity restrictions have been lifted. Local LGBTQ+ bars and clubs are returning to normal operations this evening. While most encourage mask use, they will be following the city's lead, which they believe is informed by emerging CDC / Department of Health guidance.
Back in April, Governor Bill Lee announced the end of statewide public health orders and signed his Executive Order 80, which removed the authority of local county mayors to require face coverings throughout their jurisdictions, as reported by ABC. This order only impacted 89 of Tennessee's 95 counties - it did not apply immediately to those counties with independent health departments. Lee requested that those remaining counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – lift all remaining business restrictions or mask requirements no later than the end of May. It was not immediately clear whether Nashville-Davidson County would comply with this request, and the Metro government did not immediately follow the state's lead.
The governor's action created a great deal of confusion in those remaining counties, however, as visitors often believed that the governor's order superseded local authority. This, combined with low rates of enforcement by city officials, had increased the burden of imposing the Metro mask mandate on local businesses' employees.
When Brian Sullivan reached out to bar owners, their responses were broadly similar.
Lipstick Lounge's response was: "Lifting the mask mandate immediately."
Trax responded: "We will lift the requirements per CDC and Metro Government. I think to do otherwise would just cause conflict with our staff and customers."
Canvas wrote: "Echoing what the CDC and the president said, 'Any fully vaccinated individuals are permitted to be maskless indoors.'"
Play/Tribe responded: "We follow all guidelines put forth by the city of Nashville. That being said, there is no mask requirement starting today, May the 14th."
There may be those who argue that our community bars have an obligation to maintain stricter rules than the city requires. Christa Suppan of The Lipstick Lounge, however, argues that, "In my opinion, we don’t have much of an option but to lift them. When the Governor made his statement a few weeks ago requesting all mask mandates be lifted we saw people buck to us even more. It’s been absolute hell these past few weeks. It’s hard enough being responsible for people drinking and partying, the liability we have as business owners is so great. The policing of masks has been one more thing on our shoulders and we have done it to the best of our ability. At this point we will be lifting the mask mandate immediately in accordance with the CDC and Metro Government."
Remember, as you go out to enjoy your favorite LGBTQ+ and other venues, the pandemic continues, and while you are not required to wear a mask, you are still free to do so.