NASHVILLE, TN — The coalition of downtown residents, office workers, business owners, and community members working to bring safety and common sense to Nashville’s party on wheels is hailing a recent decision to remove several noncompliant party buses from city streets.
On Thursday, the Metro Transportation Licensing Commission (TLC) voted to revoke two of the four operating permits held by Nashville Party Barge LLC and suspend the company’s other two licenses for 60 and 90 days, respectively. The company has operated since 2014 and bills itself as “one of Nashville’s first and original party tours.”
The commission’s decision came in response to reported violations of regulations that forbid party bus operators from directly serving alcohol to customers (who are allowed to bring their own beer and wine on the vehicles).
The suspended licenses also carry the tag of probation until April 30 — when the permits are due for renewal, and also prevent Nashville Party Barge from having any alcohol on board.
A Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission agent, Thornton Vaughn, testified Thursday that an undercover operation revealed the violations. An archived recording of the TLC meeting can be viewed here.
Robert Pizzitola, a veteran who is married to the company’s owner, is facing criminal charges for allegedly traveling to the commissary at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, to purchase roughly $30,000 in untaxed liquor, which was then reportedly sold on the party bus tours – even though the company lacks a license to sell alcohol, and without paying taxes.
Pizzitola is scheduled to appear in criminal court in the case on Nov. 30, online court records show.
The enforcement crackdown comes as multiple downtown party bus operators continue to oppose already approved public safety efforts by not only seeking exceptions to the new rules but also by filing a series of lawsuits challenging local authorities.
“Even with all their documented excesses — mind-numbing noise, encouraging overconsumption of alcohol and the very real threats to public health and safety – this latest violation raises serious concerns about these vehicles’ viability,” said Jim Schmitz, a downtown resident and Safe Fun Nashville co-organizer.
“We remain deeply concerned about the willingness of party bus operators to comply with the sensible limits put in place by Metro Council, and the continued erosion of downtown quality of life caused by those businesses that can’t – or won’t – follow the rules,” Schmitz added.
In a letter outlining a temporary suspension of Nashville Party Barge’s operating permit prior to the commission’s Thursday session, TLC director Billy Fields cited a “serious degree of disregard for the law shown in the exercise of judgment by the Party Barge’s agent. I am concerned that public safety may be jeopoardized.”
October 19 marked the one-year anniversary of an overwhelming vote by Metro elected leaders to place sensible guardrails on the previously unregulated party bus industry. Still, some operators continue to openly disregard the rules.
Others have sued Metro government and the TLC to avoid compliance, as well as public accountability.
In late October, the TLC held a public hearing to “review and reconsider” the party vehicle enclosure requirement after a handful of operators told the appointed board at its September meeting they were unable to meet the early October compliance deadline.
That requirement remains on hold pending a legal injunction, with the board voting on Thursday to extend the compliance deadline by eight months once the injunction is lifted.
Leading party bus operators continue to seek waivers from compliance, while a pair of operators – Night Life Party Tours and Big Green Tractor Tours– asked to the commission in October to rescind or amend its prior decision denying them Certificates of Public Convenience and Necessity. The board deferred consideration of those requests until the new year, when a new application and renewal period begins.
Safe Fun Nashville is a coalition of downtown residents, business owners, and community members who want to bring safety & common sense to Nashville’s party on wheels. In order to ensure Nashville remains a safe, fun place to visit all year long, we need state and local leaders to create common sense solutions for the wide variety of party vehicles that roam our streets.
To learn more about Safe Fun Nashville, visit safefunnashville.com online, @safefunnash on Twitter or @safefunnashville on Facebook and Instagram.