No more victims of Python-peddlers: Drunken tourists saved by new ban in Nashville

Visitors can get a lot of things in downtown Nashville: whiskey, hot dogs from the cart, an earful of Shania Twain covers.

But visitors will no longer be bothered by python dealers who trade money for a reptile around their neck after Nashville’s Metropolitan Council voted Tuesday to ban the practice, as first reported by the Tennessean. Council members clamped down on the behavior as a way to protect the city’s valuable tourism industry and shed any bad reputation as it becomes a party hub.

It’s common to see two or three people with snakes set up on Broadway Street, the busy downtown street full of honky-tonks and tourist traps. Those snake-handling merchants are always willing to let visitors wear a snake to take what is usually a blurry photo.

Aside from any concerns about pythons being wrapped around drunken tourists’ necks, the The more frequent issue is that snake charmers are pushy and demand gratuities from unsuspecting tourists, said the bills sponsor, Councilman Jacob Kupin. This is not the reputation Nashville seeks even in its debauchery district.

We want to make sure it’s a safe and comfortable place, Kupin told The Washington Post. People are drunk, they let their guards down.

Kupin, who was elected in August to represent the district that includes downtown, knew it was a problem after starting to walk Broadway on Friday and Saturday nights with the head of the city’s nightlife. Kupin said that he was surprised to see people just lying on people because of money; his first reaction was concern for the health of the snakes.

He asked the police how to prevent it, and they said there was no law against it because people were only asking for tips and not selling informally.

A loophole like that is a small but perplexing thing for a city that has become a destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties while struggling to provide enough housing stock. The area isn’t just a party haven, and lawmakers want to make sure longtime residents and newcomers alike are safe.

We need to make sure we start these things before we grow, said fellow council member Jordan Huffman.

Huffman joined as a co-sponsor of the bill after hearing about a scary experience with the reptile from a constituent.

Huffman said his constituency was entertaining out-of-towners who wanted to go to Broadway when a snake vendor asked a local if he wanted to dress up the snake. He said no. But the snake handler still put the reptile around his neck.

My constituent did not exactly react, Huffman said, adding: He screamed and tried to do a little shimmy movement and finally got away The snake started [to] tighten a little.

Nashville’s leaders want to cater to tourists while remaining a livable Southern city.

Both council members said balancing the concerns of residents is complicated Out-of-town crowds are willing to Venmo $100 to a cowboy-hatted cover band so they can play Man! Girl I Feel! Many city officials across the country are happy to roll out the red carpet for parties to fatten the tax coffers.

We’ve always been a town that relies heavily on tourism, and that’s fine, Huffman said. Our residents are completely welcomed by our guests.

Kupin said it’s possible to keep the energy going on Broadway while also making sure everyone is safe. But he said the balance will be a challenge as the city moves from the adolescent entertainment stage to adulthood.

Broadway is unique in that the South has few equally dense and walkable entertainment districts. But, Kupin said, Nashville needs to consider whether it wants to host a Bourbon Street like New Orleans or a Beale Street like Memphis.

Huffman said the city is still figuring itself out, but at least people don’t have to worry about the sidewalk snake hustler.

Now you can sleep better at night knowing you won’t have a snake laying on you, Huffman said.

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