Bobby’s Idle Hour Silenced on Music Row

January 22, 2019 by Erica Stewart

As long feared, Bobby’s Idle Hour, the last tavern on Music Row and a beloved live music venue, has been shuttered and along with four other adjacent properties, to make way for a new office building.

We’ve been advocating with our partners for stronger preservation tools to keep the music on Music Row for years, and losing Bobby’s is a devastating blow. Though Bobby’s had only occupied its present location since 2015, it dripped with the effortless authenticity of a true Nashville watering hole, where scores of local aspiring musicians took the stage and mixed with songwriters, industry professionals, music scouts, tourists—anyone searching for the heart and soul of Music City.

Losing Bobby’s—though new investors are determined to find a new location nearby—is the latest heartbreak on Music Row. In a January 21 New York Times op-ed “The Day the Music Died,” excerpted below, columnist Margaret Renkl eloquently captures what is at stake and why it matters, including a quote from our own Carolyn Brackett:

“Tour buses drive up and down the streets of Music Row, their guides telling tourists the stories they came to town to hear. But the city’s explosive growth in the last decade has imperiled its own beating heart, with quaint Music Row houses and historic Music Row studios falling again and again to developers who put up fancy condominiums and trendy restaurants and shiny office buildings in their place, despite concerted efforts by individuals and historic preservation nonprofits to save the Row’s character.

‘Nashville doesn’t have preservation tools that other cities use as a matter of course,” Carolyn Brackett, senior field officer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, told The Tennessean last summer. “There are practical solutions that would balance development with the preservation of Music Row’s historic fabric and retain the music businesses that fill them. We urge Mayor Briley and Metro Nashville leaders to adopt them before it’s too late.’

The death of a neighborhood bar in a growing city is in no way a tragedy. There are much more disruptive consequences to poorly planned growth: the loss of affordable work-force housing, the destruction of a vibrant tree canopy that offsets the effects of greenhouse gases, destabilized communities and debilitating strains on aging infrastructure, among others. But cultural continuity does matter. Bobby’s Idle Hour is “part of the fabric of this town,” said Carolyn Lethgo, 29, a Middle Tennessee native and one of Mr. Distad’s co-investors. “We just want to carry on the meaning and the legacy of this place.”

Applications for the Telling the Full History Preservation Fund grant program are due December 15, 2021.

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