Broadway is one of the most famous and busiest streets in Nashville, a tourist hot spot that boasted a record-breaking 14.5 million visitors in 2017. Known as “Lower Broad,” the lower section of Broadway has attracted country and non-country music fans alike to honky-tonk bars such as Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge for decades, where legendary acts such as Willie Nelson got their start. So what happens when you want to shut down one of the city’s busiest and most lucrative areas for a private group of 2,000 out-of-towners? With a little blood, sweat, and yes…a few tears…you form connections with advocates, go through months’ worth of pain-staking planning, revisions, and permitting to successfully produce a block party that shut down Lower Broadway for a private group for the first time in Nashville history.
A software development company wanted to host a large offsite event for 2,000 attendees of their conference and provide them with the ultimate Nashville experience; one they could only get through our client. Their ultimate dream was to shut down a portion of Nashville’s busiest street – Broadway – to do a block party. They’d been told multiple times by others that it could not be done, but they knew that our culture conditions us to think outside the box and go the extra mile for our clients. The hope was that if anyone could do it, we could.
We love to hear the words, “That’s impossible.” We began working on the design of the block party, which centered the street portion around a large mobile bar and incorporated a variety of street games. We approached neighboring bars on either side of Broadway to create separate spaces that guests could venture into: Crazy Town, Whiskey Bent, WannaB’s, and Tequila Cowboy. The client was thrilled with our direction and overjoyed that their event dreams had gone from “it can’t be done” to “it’s coming to life.”
We worked directly with the Mayor’s office and the CVB to obtain approval for our detailed street plan. To say this was an uphill battle is an understatement; closing Broadway had been done for public events but the mayor was adamantly against shutting down the street for a private group that was not from Nashville. We’re extremely proud to say that we overcame all obstacles and finally received all necessary approvals and permits to move forward. On August 15, 2017, we used 35 motor coaches to transfer 2,000 elated attendees from the Gaylord Opryland resort to downtown Nashville for the first-ever private block party on the famous Lower Broadway.
Other than the pain-staking work to acquire the necessary permits and approvals, one of the largest challenges was convincing the local businesses to deviate from their very lucrative business plan that’s built around leisure travel and bachelor/bachelorette parties. To add to this, the administration in the mayor’s office at the time had taken a hard stance on anything that the local population might perceive as a negative. This had taken away some of the freedom to host larger events in public spaces, so as not to inconvenience the locals. The overall climate of the city made the production of this first-ever event all the more amazing.
There were also several risk management steps we needed to take, such as creating a fire lane through the event space and contracting security personnel to manage the traffic and street closure. We also needed to hire security personnel to ensure adequate public flow along the sidewalks bordering our event, while simultaneously maintaining the exclusivity of our private space.
The client was so pleased with the event that they gave us a perfect score on our post-event survey. In speaking with the client that night, they were ecstatic – saying that this was their best event ever and the most efficient transportation they had ever witnessed. We impressed the skeptical city officials as well with how smooth everything went; one city official told us that night that we could definitely do the event again based on how well it was managed. We had successfully broken down barriers to prove how our company was able to coordinate large group events such as this in a very public space both quickly and professionally.
“It can’t be done,” you say? We’ll see about that. Destination, Managed.