And he’s off to a surprisingly promising start. Dread even managed to convince new at-large council member Jerry Maynard, a Pentecostal preacher and improbable supporter of strip clubs, to sponsor a bill creating places called “beer cabarets”—a whole new category of permissible revelry in Nashville involving partial nakedness.
Maynard, perhaps realizing belatedly that he was about to step into a political thicket, withdrew the bill when it came up on first reading at the last council meeting. But Dread vows it’ll be back after a little tweaking.
“It’s smart business-wise,” says Dread, who’s lobbying for the Pure Gold chain of strip clubs. “I think the folks on the ultra-right side will actually like it.”
Nudie clubs in Nashville aren’t allowed to sell alcohol, so it’s BYOB now. In exchange for the right to sell beer, the clubs would agree under the proposed ordinance to raise the age of customers to 21. Also, dancers could go topless but would have to remain otherwise clothed, and they’d have to stay on the stage or “mobile metal pedestal,” as Dread calls it. That means no lap dances allowed.
“One of the reasons that I withdrew it was that I did not want it to appear that I was somehow promoting strip clubs,” says Maynard, nevertheless insisting it’s “good” legislation.
“It gets teenagers out of the strip clubs,” Maynard says. “It protects the women because they wouldn’t have to do private dances. And the women, instead of being fully naked, would be required to wear some clothing. The most important thing, this would be a way to monitor and regulate the consumption of alcohol to hopefully reduce DUIs. The bartender or server could cut off customers because they cannot knowingly serve intoxicated people. With BYOB, no one knows how much alcohol is being consumed.
“The strip clubs came to me because I’m a preacher and they know, and hopefully the community knows, that I don’t go to strip clubs, so I have no self-interest in this,” Maynard adds. “But when I gave it more thought, I decided it was not appropriate for me.”
Dread—a standup comic turned radio DJ turned DUI lawyer who left the council last year—says the bill will be filed again in a couple of weeks (although probably with a new sponsor) once it’s rewritten to make clear that it applies only to strip clubs already holding a city “sexually oriented business” permit. “It’s not going to open a rash of new clubs,” he says.
Trouble in toylandWhat safer occupation for a politician than toymaker—someone who brings joy to children everywhere? But that’s not the way it’s working out for state Rep. Beth Harwell. Her family owns Big Time Toys, which manufactures products in China.
Five days before Christmas, the state Democratic Party issued a press release castigating Harwell, a Republican from Green Hills, and seemingly blaming her for last year’s toy recall crisis. Then Sen. Joe Haynes, a Democrat from Goodlettsville, introduced legislation this year to prohibit the sale of toxic toys and to require companies that make toys in China to disclose safety testing methods to the state Commerce and Insurance Department.
“I’m trying to protect the citizens of Tennessee, and particularly the children of Tennessee, from these toxic agents,” Haynes said before the Senate Commerce Committee.
It was one of those feel-good bills that no one would ordinarily oppose.
But his bill would have applied to only one company in Tennessee—Big Time Toys, which was founded in the 1990s by Harwell’s husband.
So the bill died in the GOP-run committee, with five Republicans passing rather than voting “no” so as not to be accused later of favoring toxic toys.
The only Republican voting with the Democrats was Sen. Tim Burchett of Knoxville, who hates China. “I think we need to send a clear message to Washington,” Burchett told the committee. “They need to get out of bed with the communists.… China poisons us and then we send a group of diplomats over there to apologize to them. It’s crazy.”
Harwell, who cleverly filed her own toy disclosure bill to try to fend off Haynes’ proposal, now says she won’t try to pass her legislation. Turns out, she says, it’s unnecessary.
“It’s very difficult for the state to regulate international commerce, as you might imagine,” she says with a straight face. “We also run into the problem of usurping federal authority. We can’t do it.”
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