Lighting Dispute Gets a Little Honky

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Nashville lights fire under venue

The spotlight is shining on country music star, Blake Shelton; and not for the reason you might think.  Due to the results of a recent lawsuit, Shelton must alter his bar and restaurant’s red exterior lighting.  Old Red Nashville is placed at the heart of Lower Broadway in Nashville, among the various honky tonks and restaurants that line the street.  Shelton opened two other restaurant / bars of the same name in Tishomingo, Oklahoma and Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  While each establishment has their own unique designs and characteristics, all of the restaurants follow the same red color palette and lighting. 

The Metro Historic Zoning Commission in Nashville did not seem to care about maintaining the entertainment spot’s intended outside aesthetic, and filed a lawsuit in February 2019 against Ryman Hospitality, the parent company of Ole Red.  The Commission argued that the red lighting against the exterior compromised the integrity of the historic building.  According to court documents, in August 2017, the city of Nashville enacted restrictions for historic overlay districts in terms of outside colored lighting.  Old Red was subject to this change in regulation and was asked to change the lighting on the building.

Ryman Hospitality attempted to fight back with the reasoning that the developers of the restaurant / bar had come to the decision about the lighting prior to the Commission’s decision.  Since one decision preceded the other, the idea was for Old Red to be grandfathered into using their own plans for lighting rather than succumb to new guidelines.  A change in lighting would affect the overall design of Ole Red.  Shelton and Ryman Hospitality lost that argument.  The building that houses Ole Red is the Broadway National Bank building, as has been around since the early 20thcentury, more than 100 years old.  As a way of preserving historic Nashville, the lawsuit concluded with an injunction, requiring the restaurant establishment to change its lighting from red to white.