Nashville’s Gaylord Opryland Resort turns away Tea Party business

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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No more Tea Parties at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville — or so the organizer of one conservative group said he was told.

The sprawling Nashville resort hosted the much-hyped National Tea Party Convention in February. But the organizer of a separate event, the First Annual Fiscal Conservative PAC conference, said the resort rejected his request to hold his convention there because the folks at the Opryland resort said the first Tea Party convention, where Sarah Palin was the keynote speaker, wasn’t profitable for them.

“I find that very hard to believe,” said Bill Hemrick, a wealthy Tennessee businessman who is organizing the First Annual Fiscal Conservative PAC conference in May.

Hemrick said representatives at the Gaylord Opryland Resort took organizers of his May 29 conference around for four hours touring the facilities. Before they could ink a deal, he was told that they’ve decided not to rent to Tea Party groups any more.

Kim Keelor, a spokeswoman for the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, would not say whether all Tea Party groups have been barred from their facilities. And she would not comment specifically on why Hemrick’s group was not allowed to hold their convention there.

But in an e-mail statement, Keelor said they “will work with any group that is able to meet the required contractual obligations related to booking a meeting or event at our property.” But while the National Tea Party Convention met those obligations, she said, the event — that drew hundreds of national and international media — cost the resort extra money. “The property did absorb some unforeseen costs to cover the extra security required due to the larger than anticipated turnout,” she said.

Hemrick said as a result of being turned down from the resort, his upcoming conference featuring Ann Coulter was scaled down from an expected crowd of several thousand to just 700 people. It will be held at the much smaller Sheraton in Nashville.

Hemrick made news last weekend by suing one of the organizers of National Tea Party Convention over money he loaned the convention’s organizer to pay for part of Palin’s speech. Neither Hemrick or Judson Phillips, the defendant in the suit, would speak about the lawsuit citing the on-going litigation.

Phillips told the Daily Caller he was surprised about that the resort would turn down Tea Partiers, pointing out that he was told that his event generated more than $1 million in publicity for the resort. Phillips, who is planning another convention in Las Vegas and is also contemplating another convention in Nashville, said he left on good terms with the resort and had even spoken with them about holding the event there again.

“I was left with a very distinct impression that they would want us back,” Phillips said.

UPDATE: Phillips, in an email Tuesday afternoon said The Daily Caller story “prompted us to contact Gaylord about our event we are planning for next year. As a result of our conversations, we are starting the negotiations to put our Winter 2011 event at the Gaylord Opryland.”

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