Institute for Justice · July 9, 2020

Nashville—The Nashville Metropolitan Council voted early Wednesday morning to repeal the city’s longstanding ban on home businesses that serve customers. Barring an unlikely veto by Nashville’s mayor, Nashville home businesses will soon be allowed six customer visits a day, six days a week. The Institute for Justice and the Beacon Center of Tennessee have been litigating to end Nashville’s client ban since 2017.

“So many of us in Nashville need to work from home,” said Lij Shaw, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit. Shaw, a Nashville record producer with a soundproof recording studio in his detached garage, was ordered to cease and desist by the city after an anonymous tipster reported him to city code enforcement in 2015. “Letting people work from home will save home studios in Nashville,” Shaw added.

Nashville’s client ban was an extreme outlier. “Residents have a constitutional right to invite people into their homes,” said IJ Attorney Keith Diggs, “and today Nashville joins the overwhelming majority of cities that recognize this.” Home businesses are routinely regulated as “home occupations” under municipal zoning laws, and Nashville was one of the only cities in the country that prohibited home-business clients. The client ban had been enacted in 1998 without any debate or official explanation.

But the home-business reform could sunset in 2023. “Property rights must always be protected, never temporarily recognized,” noted Beacon Center VP of Legal Affairs Braden Boucek, who added that “it should never have been illegal to make music in Music City.” It was widely known that thousands of Nashville residents were safely serving customers in violation of Nashville’s unusual law. But for now, “piano teachers will be able to operate without fear of getting a cease-and-desist from Nashville Codes,” said Boucek.

“My clients are my neighbors,” said Pat Raynor, who is a co-plaintiff in the lawsuit together with Shaw. Ms. Raynor, a widowed hairstylist, was shut down by the city in 2013 even though she was operating under a state-approved “shop license” to cut hair in her home. “I’ve been waiting for this for seven years,” Raynor added, “and I’m glad to see Nashville entering the twenty-first century.”

Shaw and Raynor plan to apply for home occupation permits as soon as the city makes them available. They are consulting with their attorneys on the future of their lawsuit, which is pending in the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Regardless, they will soon be free to work from home.