Statement of Support for the Board of Health Issued by Local Business Owners

City Skyline, Knoxville, April 2020

In an apparent response to the pressures put on the Knox County Board of Health, a group of about 60 business leaders issued a statement of support to the group. They called for the County Commission to leave the composition and role of the board as it is. (Ed. At the request of readers I’ve added names of businesses. Any errors there are mine.) A petition of support by citizens has now gained over 1500 signatures.

September 25 2020

The undersigned small business leaders firmly believe the Knox County Board of Health should continue to operate as an independent board, making decisions and mandates based on science and free from the influence of politics and politicians. The current Board members act based on data – measurables that they’ve learned over the course of the Pandemic – and in the best interest of all businesses (and residents) of Knox County.

Everyday we, as business owners, are tasked with keeping our folks employed and safe. In doing so, we keep the economy moving forward and help to bring in tax revenue, which allows our local governments to continue to operate and provide the services so critical to our community. We have been able to continue to do this because we can count on the Board of Health to provide us with an objective set of guidelines (based on science and history) with which to operate our businesses and mitigate the spread of Covid-19 and its effect on our community and economy.

If we dismantle the Board of Health or compromise the objective, science-based nature of it, we risk abandoning the gains we’ve made since March. We risk a spike in cases and potentially the safety of our frontline health care workers, the health of employees who are face-to-face with customers every day in Knox County and the citizenry, in general. In addition, such a spike would likely result in more stringent and necessary closures county-wide, as well as a loss of consumer confidence in the ability to go out for services/products locally. This would mean dire employment consequences and a tax revenue shortfall, which would affect essential services county-wide.

We are urging the County government to leave the Board of Health in place, in its current composition. We believe this is doubly important as we all head indoors for fall and winter, which will make things like mask-wearing and social distancing more important than ever.


Concerned Business Leaders of Knox County

Robyn Jarvis Askew (Lewis Thomason Law Firm)

Tasha C. Blakney (Eldridge and Blakney Law Firm)

Billy Blount (William Blount and Associate Insurance)

Thomas Boyd (Barley’s, Merchants of Beer and more)

Chyna Brackeen (Attack Monkey Productions)

Dustin Burnett (Nothing Too Fancy)

Scott Busby (Smee+Busby Architects)

Ashley Capps (AC Entertainment)

Gray Comer (Private Guitar Lessons)

Lisa Cyr (Nothing Too Fancy)

Jeffrey DeAlejandro (Hen Hoc, OliBea)

Lisa Duncan (Lisa Duncan Marketing)

Robin Easter (Robin Easter Design)

David M. Eldridge (Eldridge and Blakney Law Firm)

Brian Ewers (Dollar and Ewers Architecture)

Preston Farabow (Aespyre)

Matt Gallaher (Emilia, Knox Mason)

Leigh Ann Garrett (Garrett Construction)

Julie Gause (J. Gause Digital)

Bettina Hamblin (Knox Pharmacy)

Katy Hawley (Cyrious Productions)

Bryan Howington (Central Flats and Taps)

Kelly Johnson (Johnson Family of Restaurants)

Sadie Klonel (Knox Revival Paint Company)

Sara Martin (Open Door Architecture)

Sean Martin (Open Door Architecture)

Preston Matthews (Brown Squirrel Furniture)

Eric Ohlgren (Public House)

Brandon Pace (Sanders Pace Architects)

Allison Page (Discovery, Inc.)

Meg Parrish (Java, Wild Love Bakehouse, Pearl)

Shaun Parrish (Java, Wild Love Bakehouse, Pearl)

Scott Partin (Tomato Head)

Christian Prestegaard (Urban Bar and Grill)

Sharon Pryse (The Trust Company)

Nina Reineri (Breast Connect, Inc., Ascertainment Marketing, Inc.)

John Sanders (Sanders Pace Architects)

Scott Schimmel (Bliss, Bliss Home)

Kelvin Scott (Kelvin Scott Violins)

Ron Sherrill (Phoenix Pharmacy, Care Max Home Health)

Gregor Smee (Smee+Busby Architects)

Lisa Sorensen (Bliss, Bliss Home)

Marshall Stair (Lewis Thomason Law Firm)

Megan Stair (214 Magnolia)

Brian Strutz (A Dopo)

Jessica Strutz (A Dopo)

Robert Twilley (The Production Hive)

Mahasti Vafaie (Tomato Head)

Jesse Wagner (Nathanna)

Adrienne Webster (AOW Accounting and Tax Services)

Stanton Webster (Post Modern Distilling)

Zak Weisfeld (Lusid Media)

Jessie Weiss (Jessica Weiss Jewelry and Studio)

Chad Wiles (Coldwell Banker)

Lisa Wiles (Mortgage Investors Group)

Alisha Wilson (The Hair Goddess Studio)

Jonathan Wimmer (Johnson Family of Restaurants)


  1. There are some notably absent names.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I wouldn’t read too much into missing names. As Aaron noted above, he and Jessica support it and were not included.

      • From what I can tell, it happened pretty quick. Looks like the organizers will add names up until Sunday night for those that would like to be included before it goes to commission.

    • One particularly big one

    • Thank you for sharing this list, so It can be shared with all the freedom loving people of Knoxville, so they know which businesses NOT to support!

      • Yes Michelle, PLEASE stay as far away from these businesses as possible. We don’t want your non-masking wearing germs infecting everyone else.

        • Please look for data that supports masks for the general public. If your experience doing that is like mine, you won’t find any.

          I’m not looking to argue with you or anyone else…just hope we could have some fact-based discussion.

          • There are plenty of medical/scientific facts to support the general public wearing masks. Start googling….
            No one should have to do the research for you. But you can start with this: masks are strongly urged and in many cases, required by the CDC and public health departments throughout this country and by the World Health Organization. Hundreds of other civilized/industrialized nations are also strongly advising and/or requiring masks so you should interpret that as further proof. Plus, many more medical workers throughout the world would have become ill or died without masks, shields, gloves, etc. Masks help stop the spread and save lives.

  2. I encourage those who agree with this position to sign this petition (Note: it is not necessary to contribute $ after signing)

  3. This is great, and they’re absolutely right: if the mask mandate is lifted prematurely my patronage of any business other than Kroger and ALDI will revert to nil. I don’t know why the commissioners don’t seem to understand this? Since they and Jacobs only care about “the economy”, perhaps this letter will have the impact that public health concerns have not.
    I would love to support these businesses–does anyone know of a version of the letter that includes business names along with signees?

    • Agree — and I would also like to know the names of the businesses so that I can specifically support them. However, I can also understand reasons for NOT publishing names.

    • I second the interest in obtaining the list of businesses which support the KCHD and their advice to the city and county on COVID safety precautions. I just got off the phone with the West Town Mall management office to find out which mall stores are requiring masks and which aren’t. Like Sandy, I will try to only support Knoxville business owners who care as much about public health as they do the economy.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      I’ve added the businesses I knew and the ones I could find quickly. It may not be completely accurate, but I’m sure it is close.

  4. Glad to see this show of support for the KCHD from local business owners. I hope local business owners throughout all of Knox county were invited to sign-on. And thanks Leslie for reposting the residential petition which should have far more names by now!

  5. Karen Armsey says

    How sad is it that we have to have something like this supporting science.

  6. Science and facts do matter. Our Health Department is made up of medical and scientific professionals making the best decisions for our community to keep Knoxville citizens safe during a deadly pandemic. This is not the time for divisiveness, dark videos, and political posturing. Freedom to infect others puts all of us at risk. We need respectful and responsible decision making.

    • Yes, Candy! Couldn’t agree more. And I just called the County Commission office to voice my opposition to Mayor Jacob’s disturbing and offensive video. Call 865 215 2000. It’s clearly right wing extremist propaganda that he’s spreading to slander the KCHD as well as the Democratic Party. Shame on Mayor Kane!! He’s obviously guaranteed the right to freedom of speech but in my opinion, that doesn’t include freedom to distort the truth or flat out lie. I also left a message with the Commission asking them to continue supporting the KCHD in their proven ability to advise the city/county on appropriate COVID safety precautions. I believe they have been balanced and fair in their recommendations — considering both, the importance of maintaining public health and a stable economy.

    • Dean Schultz says

      The best decisions are not always the right ones. No matter the profession you hold, especially a doctor

  7. No one reached out or asked Jessica or I for our support on this. That’s disappointing as we’ve supported our downtown business community for the last 15 years at Sapphire.

    None the less, we also agree the board should make rulings free from politics.

  8. I support this and have signed the online petition.

  9. Constitutionally speaking, the board is acting within their rights and the spirit of the state constitution.

  10. I ran across the mask mandate opinion written by the Office of the Tennessee Attorney General. Here is the link if anyone is interested.

  11. Chyna Brackeen says

    I was asked if I wanted to sign the letter, and I suspect I was included because I’m already in the person’s address book and I’ve been extremely vocal in my support of the Board of Health. I don’t think anyone was purposefully left out, and I’m positive there are many businesses who would have happily agreed to be included if they’d known. (So don’t read too much into anyone who isn’t on the list.)

    I’ve had a few people ask me about being included, and just received confirmation that we can send an updated version on Monday with the additional names. So if you’re a business owner / leader in Knox County who would like to be included, please email me (or let me know here or via Facebook message) by Sunday.

  12. I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the board is contemplating anything illegal, just ill advised.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      There is a question as to whether they have the authority to curtail the powers the TCA and governor specifically gave them.

  13. Dean Schultz says

    If not mistaken and correct me if I am wrong. The commissioner did not draft this proposal, The commissioner only merely supports it. The resolution drafted seeks not to revoke any powers but would focus on and request the sheriff’s office not enforce board of health rules.

    I don’t see anything wrong with it

  14. The Board of Health is simply doing what it was created to do. I fully support their efforts and all the local businesses mentioned in this writing.

  15. Thank you to all these businesses and leaders who are backing the Board of Health. Well done!

  16. I’ve had a few complaints with the BOH before I really understood exactly what they were doing and up against. It’s sad that a minority of the population is trying to realign the board in order to control it. The intimidation factor recently revealed needs to be dealt with in some manner. I’ve signed and encourage everyone else to.

  17. lynette Purdue says

    I second what Rachel said.

  18. I’m truly heartened to see this. It’s going to be a long fall and winter and I’m happy to know where I can feel safe spending my money. I signed the earlier petition of support. Keep this important information coming!

  19. Thank you to all who signed the letter and thank you to all that are signing the petition! I am doing the same.

  20. I fully support the Board of Health and am very pleased to see local businesses speaking up in support of the BOH. There is a Face Book group called Mask Up Knoxville with 8.7K members currently who are closely paying attention to business who are abiding by the mandates! Thank you Alan for your fine work for our community!

  21. Ginna Mashburn says

    I look forward to the full list and will support those businesses who have spoken in favor of science and safety.

  22. This list is ridiculous. Most of the people who signed it are not affected by the Board of Health in any way, shape, or form. Plus, I know for a fact there’s some people on this list who are against the Board, but just wanted to put their name on it because, like people said, they knew it would bring more people in to their business.

    • Which ones, Geoff?

    • Sealion Harpooner says

      Major points of contention as of late have been bars and restaurants, just from a scanning of the list:

      – Thomas Boyd (Barley’s, Merchants of Beer and more)
      – Jeffrey DeAlejandro (Hen Hoc, OliBea)
      – Matt Gallaher (Emilia, Knox Mason)
      – Bryan Howington (Central Flats and Taps)
      – Kelly Johnson (Johnson Family of Restaurants)
      – Eric Ohlgren (Public House)
      – Meg Parrish (Java, Wild Love Bakehouse, Pearl)
      – Shaun Parrish (Java, Wild Love Bakehouse, Pearl)
      – Scott Partin (Tomato Head)
      – Christian Prestegaard (Urban Bar and Grill)
      – Brian Strutz (A Dopo)
      – Jessica Strutz (A Dopo)
      – Mahasti Vafaie (Tomato Head)
      – Stanton Webster (Post Modern Distilling)

      My problem with the list is that it is nowhere near extensive enough because of a limited sample size, but I can understand why these are mostly limited to Downtown/Old City establishments. Perhaps someone else can survey more of Knox County, as the Board of Health are attempting to keep 470k safe.

      Of course the whataboutism won’t end there, because “it’s not about these businesses it’s about THESE businesses.”

      You all love market forces when they work in your favor I’m sure, but remember the adage of “no such thing as bad publicity.”

      Even if we take a cynical view that all of these businesses are just looking for more customers, they are at least realizing that consumer confidence matters, that demand and consumption drive the economy, and that 75% of the community supports efforts mandates like masks in the name of community health.

      See Q38c:

      I and others won’t visit or “vote with our dollars” at establishments that disregard the risk of community spread. And the longer citizens and certain businesses hold out, the longer the pandemic drags out and the more the economy suffers.

  23. I support the Board of Health

  24. I’m so grateful to see this support for the Board of Health and all they’re doing to keep our community safe. Thank you for the list of businesses who signed in support of Science and not political opinions based on nothing substantial. My family and I patronize those businesses observing the safety guidelines. Thank you, Alan, for your untiring, and gracious, efforts on behalf of us all.

  25. Shawn McCann says

    I’d assume we aren’t the only member of the local outdoor industry that would like to be added. Bike shops were deemed essential from the start, but our choice at Harper’s to continue to be predominantly curbside, is not through mandate, but in the interest of public health and our own. We’ve sucked up a few bad reviews, have had at least one set of skid marks left in the parking lot, and feel like if we had better guidance from elected county leadership, that may not be the case.

    • Chyna Brackeen says

      Shawn, I’ll make sure you get added. Let me know if there’s anyone I need to list in addition to you as owner / management of Harper’s.

  26. I do support the mask mandate – let me start there before someone misreads me. There needs to be enforcement of the rules set in place by the Board of Health. I took a drive down Cumberland today (my mistake, forgot it was Saturday) and the patrons are packed on the bar patios. No masks, No Distancing, No Covid I guess. Its painful with other businesses are still closed or operating a loss in order to comply with the rules (because they care about the employees and patrons) when other businesses don’t seem to give a flying turd about the rules/science and neither do their patrons… If the government/police are not going to enforce the BoH rules its going to be an even longer time before we get to some kind of “normal: – and people like me who are in the live music industry are going to be out of work for A LOT longer….

    • 100% agree, Paige. The precautions that have been advised need to be enforced by the University of Tennessee (with students) and the government (citizens/businesses). That’s what’s happening in other cities, states and countries and it’s working to reduce the spread of the virus.

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