Tennessee’s Supreme Court may soon rule on whether Home Recording Studios can continue to make music in Music City.
The court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case challenging Nashville’s ban on home-based business clients visiting. The plaintiffs argue that the city’s regulations arbitrarily and unfairly deprive them of their right to earn a living.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years here, so I’ve already sunk my entire life’s career and family into this,” says Lij Shaw, one of two plaintiffs suing Nashville over the rules. We can’t quit making music, as do most of the people that I know. “We are artists and love making music.
Shaw, who There are reasonsProfiled in 2019, has been trying to save his Toy Box Studio business since 2015. He was told by Nashville’s code enforcers that he could not record musicians at home for payment. Shaw had to choose between shutting down his business or fighting back.
In 2017, he and Patricia Raynor—whose home hair salon business was similarly targeted—sued Nashville to overturn its prohibition on client visits.
They claim that they have not caused injury to their neighbors by having customers visit their houses, and Nashville’s ban on clients visiting is arbitrary.
Shaw points out that there are no restrictions on the number of people you may invite to your house for free. This allows for more disruptive activities.
Shaw says that technically it would be legal for the whole orchestra of symphony to visit my studio and park in the area like a football game, recording all weekend. It would have been illegal if they gave me $1 as a token of appreciation.
Shaw and Raynor complain also that Nashville’s policy unfairly affects their businesses because the city allows short-term rentals and home-based businesses to have as many as 12 customers. According to them, this unjust treatment violates the Tennessee Constitution.
In 2019, a Davidson County Chancery Court judge ruled against Shaw and Raynor. Judge ruled against Shaw and Raynor because Nashville might be able to articulate possible harms by allowing home businesses to service clients onsite.
A reprieve was granted to home-based business in the next year. Nashville’s Metro Council amended its prohibition against client visits to permit home businesses, such as Shaw and Raynor’s, to serve up to six customers per day.
Keith Diggs from the Institute for Justice says that this is an improvement to the status quo. He represents Shaw and Raynor and works for the Institute for Justice. The case is being investigated by the Tennessee-based Beacon Center. He notes that it is still not equal treatment.
Diggs says that Pat and Lij are limited to having six clients per hour, while day care homes can accommodate more. [and]The historic home event can host up to 12 clients per day.” In January 2023, the city ordinance will also expire. The law will expire in January 2023. It’s not clear if client visits are going to be completely banned or completely unregulated.
Yesterday, a Nashville attorney told the Tennessee Supreme Court that although the ordinance was ambiguous she believes that it is her interpretation of the law that no restriction will apply to client visits after the law’s expiration.
Diggs states that Nashville took contradicting positions on the future of the law. That ambiguity—and the fact that the city could easily reimpose explicit restrictions on client visits in the future—still makes this a live issue, he says.
Yesterday’s hearing saw the justices spend most of the time examining whether Shaw or Raynor’s case was moot, given Nashville’s blanket ban on client visits. Also, given the expiration of the six-client-per-day limit next year.
They can choose to dismiss, send the case back to a lower tribunal, or decide on the merits.
Diggs hopes that Diggs will make a ruling that states that facts actually do matter.
He claims that Nashville has never been able show Shaw and Raynor the negative impact their home businesses had on their neighboring properties. He argues that the city should not be allowed to restrict what owners of businesses can do with their property.
Shaw claims a ruling protecting home business would provide certainty to his studio. Shaw has already invested over $50,000 since Nashville adopted temporary rules permitting client visits. Shaw believes it will also preserve the city’s unique music scene.
His words: “Music City” is still an exceptional place in which musicians can meet up face-to-face before microphones. Without the opportunity to host a professional musician in my studio, I will be stuck in a world that focuses on computer and Zoom calls. The old music is important to me.