Report Finds Toughs At Tootsie’s

Tootsie’s Orchid, the famed Nashville watering hole favored by many in the city’s music community, celebrated its 50th anniversary as local news reports emerged accusing bouncers of assault and its owners of being convicted felons.

Three men filed separate lawsuits in 2009 and 2010 claiming bouncers assaulted them. In one case, the plaintiff claims he was beaten a half-block from the bar in May 2009.

An investigative report by WTVF-TV in Nashville also found the owner and manager of the lounge were convicted of felonies in the 1980s after being indicted in New York for an alleged conspiracy to embezzle $1.8 million in securities.

The state reported Tootsie’s owner Steve Smith and his half-brother, John Taylor, were given probation in the case.
Another employee, Michael Seay, is reportedly on lifetime parole from Georgia after serving prison time for a string of violent robberies. Police reports describe Seay as Tootsie’s night manager, but Smith told the station that Seay works as a bar back.

Surveillance video aired by WTVF appears to show an incident in which bouncers chased a tourist down the street, ending in a “brutal assault.” The suit resulting from the incident was settled, according to the station.

An investigation by WTVF alleges that several other employees are also convicted felons. Smith declined to comment on questions about his staffing and hiring practices. He did, however, defend Tootsie’s reputation as a major Music City tourist attraction.

“If we didn’t have such a great establishment, we wouldn’t be backed by these famous country music artists that come in here,” Smith told WTVF.

And many of those artists came out in force Nov. 7 for Tootsie’s 50th birthday party, including Country Music Hall of Fame members Kris Kristofferson, Mel Tillis and Little Jimmy Dickens along with Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Mark Chesnutt, Terri Clark, Colt Ford, Lorrie Morgan, The Grascals, Dean Miller and Ronnie McDowell.