Thursday, November 6, 2008

Potty Patrol

City inspection blows the lid off of Beale's secret scandal.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 6, 2008 at 4:00 AM

On Election Day, with the future of the presidency and perhaps the fate of the world hanging in the balance, John Elkington was supposed to be worried about toilet seats.

Specifically, toilet seats on Beale Street. Loose toilet seats. Dozens of them. According to inspectors hired by the city and a legal team led by Ricky Wilkins and being paid $47,000 of public funds a month, they are "hazards" to the welfare of Beale Street's millions of visitors.

Pardon the expression, but it's turned into a real pissing contest between the city and Wilkins and Elkington's Performa Entertainment Real Estate, the manager and leasing agent for Beale Street for the last 26 years.

"That's exactly what it is," Elkington said. "On this historic day, I'm sitting here talking about toilet seats."

Wilkins and the team of crack inspectors are going to get to the bottom of this one. They're going to flush away corruption, and nobody is going to put a lid on this scandal.

Somebody call Joe the Plumber. We've got another Watergate on our hands.

To recap the crisis in the can:

In October, Wilkins' office received copies of the city's inspection of Beale Street properties.

"The inspections revealed several fire/safety hazards," wrote Sharon Harless Loy. "Please pass this information along so that these hazards are corrected as soon as possible."

The hazards were uncovered by teams of plumbing and electrical inspectors hired by the city to assess the condition of Beale Street properties as Elkington and the city attempt to reach a settlement that will remove him as manager. Elkington says he's ready to go, but the city feels it is owed a share of the profits. And before a divorce is granted, the condition of the worldly goods must be determined.

And that means everything, including the kitchen sinks and the toilets.

Quoting from the reports, inspectors found the following:

"Toilet seat loose" at 152 Beale, the Blues City Café, and several neighboring properties.

"Lavatory faucet drips" at 144 Beale, "women's toilet stopped up," "women's lavatory drains slow," and a "broken lavatory handle" at 152 Beale, "flush valve loose on urinal" and "kitchen sink loose at wall" at 152 Beale, and a veritable epidemic of loose toilet seats.

The seat scofflaws include Bud Chittom, owner of Blues City Café and other properties in the 100 block of Beale. Elkington took draconian action last week, sending Chittom and other club owners a no-nonsense letter.

"I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the toilet seats," he wrote. "During the next month, I will be spot-checking all the restrooms on the street. The problem is not going to go away, gentlemen. Let's tighten it up."

City inspectors also noted leaks in air conditioners, exposed electrical wires, clogged gutters, leaky roofs, cracked walls, broken exit lights, and a "light switch cover missing east of disco ball" in Club 152.

So what does Chittom have to say for himself?

"I think we need to weigh these people getting on these toilet seats," he said. "It might not have been fair to the seats. There should be some kind of standardized seat test."

He said he and his managers will address the electrical violations and will work with inspectors.

"We work diligently to make our places safe and well-maintained," he said. "Comparatively, we are probably in better shape than the courthouse."

As for the loose toilet seats, Chittom said he could have fixed them for a lot less money than the city paid Wilkins.

"Those seats on Air Force One didn't cost but, what, $1,300?"

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