Business in downtown Nashville’s thriving tourism district has begun its return to normality, as patrons once again fill honky tonks along Lower Broadway even as crews are still cleaning up debris from the Christmas Day bombing on Second Avenue.
Some business owners were allowed inside the blast zone to assess the damage. Megan Hester is the operations director for Cumberland Hospitality, which operates three businesses within the footprint of the original crime scene, including Doc Holliday’s Saloon.
Hester says she was surrounded by federal agents who were sweeping the area while visiting the site.
“Fortunately, there’s not a lot of damage besides broken windows up until you get to Commerce,” she said. “And, respectfully, I did not ask to be walked up there to see it. But you can see from Broadway and Second, just total devastation and total destruction past Commerce.”
Hester says the hospitality group has owned several Second Avenue businesses throughout the years. They were looking to expand in the historic district before the explosion. Despite the uncertainty, she says the group does plan to rebuild in the area.
Just a few yards away, music played and pedal taverns rolled by on Lower Broadway. School buses and patrol cars barricaded the street to keep onlookers out.
Most of downtown was a no-go zone for the first few days, but the city has been able to shrink the restricted area. Still, federal investigators expect to be collecting evidence through Friday.
Federal aid has not yet been approved for businesses and residents affected by the powerful blast, five days after Tennessee’s governor made the request. It took only two to get FEMA disaster declaration after March’s tornadoes.
A FEMA spokesperson says the agency is reviewing the request. A disaster declaration would help pay for debris removal and for emergency responders. People affected by the disaster could also apply for direct aid.
Meanwhile, Nashville’s water and sewer utility is worried about what it may find under First and Second Avenues. In a note to Metro Council members, the water department warns that many of the sewer lines in the blast zone are made of clay and were installed in 1903. They likely will need to be replaced.
Inspectors still haven’t been able to inspect the damage to its water and sewer lines, which were shut down immediately after the blast.
AT&T says it’s troubleshooting new issues as the company attempt to restore lost connections due to the Christmas Day bombing.
Engineering teams brought in a second generator to its transmission facility overnight. But the company says its plan to bring back commercial power has been delayed because of newly discovered damage.
The explosion knocked out 911 services in multiple Tennessee counties, though some have now been restored. Williamson County is the latest to have 911 back up.
WPLN’s Damon Mitchell, Blake Farmer and Samantha Max contributed to this story.