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Tennessee offers not-so-timely pandemic relief

April 6, 2021

The Tennessee General Assembly enacted the “Business Fairness Act” last week.  The new law allows businesses to opt-out of stricter local health orders, starting on July 1, 2021. 

This means that a business can pick and choose whether it will follow more restrictive local health mandates or the typically less-stringent state health requirements. 

We see the new law as essentially gutting local control over future health pandemics.  During the pandemic, many restaurants, bars and other businesses in major Tennessee cities complained that capacity, operating hours and other restrictions were unfair, particularly since surrounding counties had more liberal restrictions in place. 

Because the new law does not take effect until July 1, 2021, we see the new law as being largely symbolic.

Until July 1, businesses must continue to comply with local health laws, where applicable, including mask mandates, occupancy limitations and other health restrictions imposed by local health departments in Tennessee’s major cities.

To the extent there are any health restrictions remaining in place on July 1, 2021, businesses may choose whether to follow the less stringent state guidelines.

Confused?  The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion” seems appropriate:

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.

Vote for me and I’ll set you free.

The entire text of the new law is here.

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