Nashville’s historic Lower Broadway district—which many consider the Holy Land of country music with numerous historic buildings and entertainment institutions—has suffered numerous incidents of vandalism and looting at the hands of protesters demonstrating against the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th.
The area is also home to the Ryman Auditorium, also known as the Home of Country Music, which according to numerous reports, has not suffered any significant damage at this time, though there was a window broken out of the building on 5th Ave. Pictures of the establishment show no significant damage suffered during the looting and protests, and on site security has confirmed the building is safe.
There are numerous others reports of music venues, stores, and other establishments being damaged in the area. Many of the establishments suffered broken windows, including the Alan Jackson-owned AJ’s Good Time Bar, The Stage, and The Boot Barn location on Broadway which was set on fire and heavily looted, with Nashville fire personnel arriving on the scene to extinguish the blaze. Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville location also suffered significant looting and damage.
Demonstrations that started peacefully near the courthouse in Nashville just north of the area turned violent and destructive Saturday afternoon, with protestors breaking windows and setting fires at the Nashville courthouse. Nashville’s Central Police district, which is located very close to the Lower Broadway entertainment district, was also a location for protests, some of whom moved to Lower Broadway when dispersed away from the precinct.
At 10 p.m. the Nashville Mayor declared a curfew, and police moved into the Lower Broadway area with significant numbers, telling anyone still out on the streets that they would be subject to arrest. Steve Smith—the owner of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and a partner in Kid Rock’s Lower Broadway establishment told News 2 in Nashville that he “has armed security at all his businesses downtown and if there is vandalism or looting at his places, they will shoot to kill.”
The Lower Broadway area had already been hit very hard with mandatory closings due to COVID-19, and had only been allowed to reopen recently with limited capacity. Though some of the businesses of Lower Broadway are corporate owned, others are independent businesses such as Robert’s Western World, Layla’s, and The Ernest Tubb Record Shop, which were already facing a difficult future.
Nashville venues are not the only ones to suffer significant damage due to rioting. Numerous music venues, including some catering specifically to roots music were significantly damaged in Minneapolis in the initial round of riots. The Turf Club, which has upcoming concerts secluded for American Aquarium and Rev. Peyton’s Big Damn Band, suffered significant damage, as did the Hook and Ladder, which has events from Davina and the Vagabonds and Miss Tess and the Talkbacks scheduled for the future.
Protests also erupted in downtown Austin on Saturday, though there are no confirmed cases of venues being affected. By 11 p.m., protestors and looters had moved on from the area, while crews arrived to assess the damage and board up broken windows.
This story will be updated when further information is available.