Zoning

Tennessee Court Says Music City Can Keep Cracking Down on Home Recording Studios

A Davidson County judge ruled Tuesday that Nashville's ban on home businesses servicing clients on site is constitutional.

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Music City can continue its crackdown on home music studios thanks to a new ruling from the Davidson County Chancery Court in Tennessee upholding a Nashville law that prohibits home business owners from serving clients on site.

The law has been a burden on the city's numerous home studio owners who, thanks to the Nashville Metro government's ban on client visits, are technically unable to charge musicians to record in their home studios. Most studio owners are able to fly under the radar. Those who are reported to Metro can have their businesses upended overnight.

That would include Lij Shaw, a Grammy Award-winning music producer profiled by Reason in April.

For years, Shaw ran his Toy Box Studio recording business out of his Nashville home without incident. In 2015, he was hit with a cease and desist letter from Metro, which demanded that he stop receiving clients at his home, shut down his promotional YouTube channel, and strip information about his business from his website or else be fined.

In 2017, Shaw and Pat Raynor, whose home salon business also ran afoul of Nashville's client ban, sued the Nashville Metro government. The two were represented by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, and the Beacon Center, a Tennessee free market think tank.

Their lawsuit argued that because Nashville couldn't show any actual harm Shaw or Raynor caused by receiving clients at their home, the city had no legitimate government interest in enforcing its ban on client visits. That ban, their lawsuit argued, was therefore irrational and violated the Tennessee Constitution's protection of one's right to earn a living.

In an opinion published Tuesday, however, Chancellor Anne Martin agreed with Nashville's argument that because one could imagine potential harms coming from allowing home businesses to service clients on-site, the Metro government's rules were rational, and therefore constitutional.

Shaw and Raynor's businesses, Martin wrote, "are like any others in that if the public is allowed to come to their residences as customers, it could disturb the residential nature of their neighborhoods, as well as foment a potential host of other problems."

"The ruling is tantamount to one that concludes that facts cannot override imaginary harms when it comes to economic rights," says Braden Boucek, an attorney with the Beacon Center. "Under our constitutional structure where the government is one of powers few and enumerated, that's not how it's supposed to be."

"Lij and Pat have a constitutional right to use their homes to earn an honest living," Institute for Justice attorney Keith Diggs said in a statement. "Today's ruling ignores Nashville's admission that Lij and Pat never threatened public health or safety. We will keep fighting for Lij and Pat until this unconstitutional law is overturned."

The Institute for Justice and the Beacon Center plan on appealing Tuesday's ruling. Until then, Nashville's music producers and other home businesses will have to hope and pray that code enforcement doesn't choose to single them out next.

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  1. Nashville cats play clean as country water.

    But not in a home studio.

    1. As Robbie Fulks wrote in his song about Nashville, Fuck This Town

      1. Or to quote the Joker from the original modern Batman movie:

        “This town needs an enema.”

  2. Boucek is unfortunately wrong. The Federal Constitution established a government of enumerated (and theoretically, few) powers. No such requirement exists for the States. States retain general “police powers” (unless they are restricted by their own state constitutions).

    1. Yeah – this is really just a zoning issue. If zoning is constitutional, there is no inconsistency here.

  3. >>>Music City can continue its crackdown on home music studios

    gonna go after laptops next, Dinosaur City?

    1. Only if clients come to visit them….

  4. “because one could imagine potential harms coming from allowing home businesses to service clients on-site, the Metro government’s rules were rational, and therefore constitutional”

    That ruling is doubleplusungood

    1. Or did you mean Newspeak?

    2. One could imagine potential harms coming from abiding by the decision (loss of income springs immediately to mind), therefore I rule the court to be illegal and it’s decisions null and void.

  5. I hope some town near Nashville explicitly makes home studios legal then invites everyone threatened by Nashville to move there.

    Let “Music City” become Music Ditzy.

    1. Lebanon, better get a move on! Carthage is farther, but they have better river views!

    2. Yeah, that’s called Franklin, and we are already full

      1. Franklin is not full. Come on the South side of the town is still farm land.

    3. +1,000!!!!!

  6. Awe…. they think the government is one of limited and enumerated powers…

    How quaint!

  7. In an opinion published Tuesday, however, Chancellor Anne Martin agreed with Nashville’s argument that because one could imagine potential harms coming from allowing home businesses to service clients on-site, the Metro government’s rules were rational, and therefore constitutional.

    Years ago, someone here in the comment section who had some inside knowledge about how the legal systems work– and how the people in them think, said that the first instinct of the system is to preserve the system.

    That’s clearly what Chancellor Anne Martin is doing here. This isn’t about a grammy award winning producer recording hit tunes in his basement, this is about a business– ANY business that essentially operates out of the home when said home is not zoned for such activity. If they allowed the home recording studio to exist, then they guy selling home baked pies and organic honey on weekends out of his garage attracting hundreds of customers and parking all over the street can operate too. At that point, the regulations and the zoning become meaningless.

    1. Garage sales? NIMBY.

  8. Well, yee-haw!
    Socialist tyranny finally comes to the whiskey belt, and not too soon either!

  9. Nashville’s argument that because one could imagine potential harms coming from allowing home businesses to service clients on-site

    “Your honor, it is not impossible that a meteor could be attracted by the unique vibrations of a recording studio, and be directed to hit this town when it otherwise would have harmlessly destroyed DC.”

  10. “In an opinion published Tuesday, however, Chancellor Anne Martin agreed with Nashville’s argument that because one could imagine potential harms coming from allowing home businesses to service clients on-site, the Metro government’s rules were rational, and therefore constitutional.”……… Yes, they could, for example, trip over the garden hose.

  11. So an accountant or lawyer who sometimes sees clients from his home office is illegal? A wedding photographer or planner? A psychologist?

    I know people who do all of those things. This guy was targeted by the bigwig recording industry shutting down the upstart small timers. If he was in DesMoines nobody would have said a word.

  12. Oh, you’re surprised that a local government can do outrageous things?

    You new here?

  13. Why even let people live in residential neighborhoods? What about all the potential harm from private guest coming to a home? What about the potential harm from the people living there? I can just imagine how much harm my neighbor’s bratty 6 year-old will be responsible for in 10 years.

  14. I mean, this is literally just a zoning issue. Sorry that Nashville would like to keep residential neighborhoods, I don’t know, residential.

  15. This is absolute crap. Under the 4th Amendment you have a right to privacy what you do in your home unless it causes public harm is none of the government’s business, even if you do it to make a living. Saying that the “imagined harm” standard is legally dubious and is basically crony capitalism. there is no other facet of civil law in which the plaintiff can cite no injury but the “possibility of injury” and still have a claim. That is ridiculous

  16. My Be I hope some town near Nashville explicitly makes home studios legal then invites everyone threatened by Nashville to move there. Thank you
    http://www.onlineengineering.in

  17. Nashville sucks. So does this hypocritical and overstepping ruling about having company over for Computer/recording work. Home business meetings happen all the time. If better services are available and people don’t want to use your service it’s time to move on, instead of trying to corrupt the scene and drain the clients in a forced market. If there have been no reported problems in a neighborhood because of it, piss off.

    Same thing has been going on in taxis trying to out Uber and Lyft. Same thing on Airbnb restrictions in cities. Sabotage in the energy industry and everywhere else. Just more of the big guys using influence and dollars to push out innovation, opportunity and better service to individuals. Trashy actions. Greed on display. Keep fighting.

  18. Well shit.

    I always did like a good Tupperware party.

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