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FERRIER FILES: Lawsuit challenges law limiting Nashville home businesses

FERRIER FILES: Lawsuit challenges law limiting Nashville home businesses (Submitted to Fox 17 News)

Unless a business operates as a home daycare, at-home professionals cannot have customers come to their homes in Nashville.

This is a very unusual local law and now it is facing a major challenge as a civil rights violation filed by two Nashville home business owners on Tuesday.

Pat Raynor lost her husband and knew when he died she would have to work as long as she could walk. She opened a home beauty parlor in Donelson. It had low overhead so she could even slowly shrink her business as she got older.

Metro Codes shut her down.

“I can't retire," Raynor said. "I need to work for a very long time. I can do that from home."

Lij Shaw runs the Toy Box, a home based recording studio in East Nashville. He had invested everything in it, but it was closed by Metro Codes after an anonymous complaint.

The closure was devastating to this dad raising a daughter by himself. The home business also allows him to serve her.

"I am 50 years old now," Shaw said. "For me to try and recreate my career path and go into a job market, I know nothing about being away from home and family. Not to mention how it stops me from what I need to do to take care of my daughter."

The home-based business ban was enacted by Metro Council to free neighborhoods of parking problems, business traffic and noise. It also came with a trigger; any anonymous complaint and your business is shut down.

The complaint could simply come from a competitor without merit. The business owners felt helpless, but now the Beacon Center of Tennessee and the Institute For Justice are fighting for them.

“Nashville is the only major city in Tennessee with such a draconian law on the books,” said Keith Diggs, attorney with the Institute for Justice.

“Home businesses are a valuable part of the fabric of every neighborhood in America, and home studios are a rare and a particular part of the Nashville experience,” said Braden Boucek, Beacon Center lawyer.

Lij Shaw and Pat Raynor both built their business as an answer to unexpected events in their lives. They say they aren't asking the government for help here, just leave them alone.

Metro Council has come close to legalizing home businesses that see customers on a couple of occasions, but it has never passed. Now it goes to court.

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