Institute for Justice · October 1, 2019

Today, Nashville’s Chancery Court of Davidson County upheld Nashville’s client prohibition for home-based businesses, preventing music producer Lij Shaw from recording musicians at his in-home studio and hair stylist Pat Raynor from cutting the hair of her long-time clients in a state-approved single-chair salon she built in her house. The lawsuit against Nashville’s home business ban was filed in December 2017 by Lij and Pat, who teamed up with the Institute for Justice (IJ) and the Beacon Center of Tennessee. The plaintiffs will be appealing the ruling.

The client prohibition makes it illegal to serve clients at a home-based business, even when there is no harm to anyone. The law was added to the zoning code in 1998 without any public debate or record behind its reasoning. Meanwhile, Nashville’s zoning code allows thousands of short-term rentals, day cares, and “historic homes” that are allowed to host special events.

“Lij and Pat have a constitutional right to use their homes to earn an honest living,” IJ Attorney Keith Diggs said. “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.”

Lij and Pat first became home-based entrepreneurs because it made common sense: Lij needed to work from home while he raised his daughter, and Pat needed to save money after her husband’s death left her solely responsible for paying the mortgage on her home. Nashville admits there was never any evidence that Lij or Pat affected their neighborhoods, but that didn’t stop Nashville from sending them cease and desist letters and ordering them never to record musicians or cut hair in their home studios again.

While most Nashville residents are unaware of the client prohibition, the city solicits anonymous complaints on its website, which anyone can use to “hammer another neighbor” without evidence of harm, as one Nashville enforcement official testified. Nashville is the only major city in the country with such a blanket restriction on home-based businesses.

“Without home studios, there would be no music in Music City. We really need the home studios to survive,” Lij Shaw said. “I look forward to fighting this decision on appeal.”