Kid Rock’s Nashville Bar Refuses to Close During Coronavirus, Endangering Lives

The Big Ass Honky Tonk & Steakhouse is staying open despite warnings from the mayor. 

UPDATE 3/17/2020: “In cooperation with the Mayor’s office, Tootsie’s, Honky Tonk Central and Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk have closed to help protect public health,” said a statement provided by Steve Smith’s rep to Variety. “Rippy’s and The Diner [restaurants also owned by Smith] will operate under the guidelines set forth for restaurants and take precautions to keep our staff and patrons safe. We hope to continue working with local officials to minimize the hardship this puts on our over 800 staff members and 300+ musicians.”

Kid Rock is a man who’s courted controversy for years—supporting president Donald Trump, using the Confederate flag as a prop during live performances, and openly insulting NFL player Colin Kaepernick who knelt during the national anthem as a form of protest. 

So perhaps unsurprisingly, a bar he co-owns called Big Ass Honky Tonk & Steakhouse in Nashville is now refusing to take the deadly COVID-19 outbreak seriously. Although Nashville Mayor John Cooper has suggested all bars and restaurants in town close in a desperate attempt at social distancing that could save millions of lives, this one will not shutter. 

Steve Smith, co-owner of the Honky Tonk & Steakhouse, said in a statement: “We appreciate the efforts of Mayor Cooper to combat the COVID-19 virus, but unless there’s a statewide mandate that directs all bars and restaurants to be closed, the request made by Mayor Cooper is unconstitutional as he is targeting a select group of businesses. [A] Tootsie’s patron as immediate as last night, mentioned having lived through the polio epidemic and didn’t recall such extreme measures being handed down in history. In response, Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Rippy’s, Honky Tonk Central, Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk & Steakhouse and The Diner will continue to remain open to serve the public until such statewide mandate is issued from the Governor of Tennessee.”

He’s right about one thing: such extreme measures have never been taken in our lifetimes. Because this is a completely unprecedented event.

Any places where people in large numbers gather close together are very dangerous to visit during the spread of coronavirus, still many folks are continuing to blithely ignore those guidelines. According to the Center for Disease Control and epidemiologists—who know a hell of a lot more than Steve Smith does—social distancing and the reduction of close contact can play a huge role in slowing the transmission of the virus, especially to those who are older or immunocompromised and thus more vulnerable. 

Kid Rock has not personally commented on the issue. But he certainly has the authority to shut down the bar. Now would be a good time. 

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