Morgan Wallen Denied Signage for His Bar by Nashville Metro Council

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The singer-songwriter’s Morgan Wallen’s This Bar and Tennessee Kitchen is slated to open on Memorial Day weekend.

Morgan Wallen

Matt Paskert

The Nashville Metro Council may have exceeded its reach when it voted to not allow Morgan Wallen’s This Bar and Tennessee Kitchen to have external signage with his name on it, according to a prominent Nashville attorney.

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On Tuesday (May 21), the council voted to reject plans for Wallen’s 20-foot external sign to appear on the six-story venue, which is slated to open Memorial Day weekend. Only three members voted in favor of the sign, with 30 members voting against. Four council members abstained. Some members of the council cited Wallen’s past controversial incidents as reasons for rejecting the sign.

Signage requests for external building signs that hang over public property are required to obtain council approval. “I don’t want to see a billboard up with the name of a person who’s throwing chairs off of balconies and who is saying racial slurs,” at-large council member Delishia Porterfield said, according to The Tennessean.

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“Mr. Wallen is a fellow East Tennessean. He gives all of us a bad name,” District 14 council member Jordan Huffman added. “His comments are hateful; his actions are harmful.”

However, such a decision could be a case of government overreach, says the attorney, who is not related to the case: “You can’t as the government take negative action against something someone said. The Council was way out on a limb. It violates the First Amendment to say, ‘You used the N-word therefore you can’t put your name on a building.’”

Porterfield is referencing Wallen’s January 2021 use of a racial slur that was caught on video, as well as his arrest on April 7, when he was taken into custody for allegedly throwing a chair off of the rooftop of Eric Church’s six-story Chief’s bar in downtown Nashville. Wallen was booked on three felony counts of reckless endangerment and one misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. Wallen is slated to appear before a Nashville court in August.

Wallen’s bar and restaurant, located at 107 4th Ave. N., adjacent to the Ryman Auditorium just off Nashville’s Lower Broadway, is a partnership between Wallen and TC Restaurant Group, which licensed his name for the project. TC Restaurant Group is also behind other celebrity bars in downtown Nashville including Luke Bryan’s 32 Bridge Food + Drink and Jason Aldean’s Kitchen + Rooftop Bar.

The next step, suggests the attorney, could be for TC Restaurant Group to take action in federal or chancery court against the Council. “[TC Restaurant Group] has bought the right to use [Wallen’s] name,” the attorney says. “Basically the city has taken that piece of property away from them. They can’t do that without due process of law.”

A representative for Wallen declined to comment on the council’s decision, as did Wallen’s manager. Representatives for TC Restaurant Group declined to comment, adding only that the company is “focused on This Bar’s opening.” Porterfield’s office did not respond for a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Melinda Newman.

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