Monday, June 30, 2014

Memphis Firefighters Association Advises Against Holiday Protests

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 5:08 PM

Memphis Fire Fighters Association president Thomas Malone gives a speech from the Memphis Fire Museum Monday as MFFA vice president Joe Norman looks on.
  • Toby Sells
  • Memphis Fire Fighters Association president Thomas Malone gives a speech from the Memphis Fire Museum Monday as MFFA vice president Joe Norman looks on.

Memphis Fire Fighters Association [MFFA] officials said they have advised the union's members against any type of massive "sick day" protest during the Independence Day holiday weekend in favor of more organized protests against changes in city employee benefits.

The Memphis City Council recently voted to reduce healthcare benefits of most city employees and retirees. On Tuesday, the council will discuss changes to employee pension benefits that could cut those benefits for many employees.

Recent Internet chatter shows that some members of the Memphis Police Department and the Memphis Division of Fire Services wish to rally against the changes by staging a mass "sick day" during the weekend holiday.

MFFA officials said they had heard the rumblings of such a protest, mostly on Facebook, and sent a message to their members advising them against such a protest. But they admitted they couldn't stop any member from doing what they wanted.

In a news conference Monday, MFFA leadership questioned the benefits changes when a new report shows the city abated more than $42 million in tax break for corporations last year.

MFFA president Thomas Malone said the "corporate welfare" could more than pay for the proposed cuts to the city's employee benefits. He promised his union members would unite in public protests, not in any kind of job action like calling in sick.

"We do not support any kind of job action (against the changes)," said Malone. "What we're doing here is the way we'll get our message across. We're not supporting job action but we will be in the streets."

The report was published this month and is from Washington-based Good Jobs First, a policy research group from the National Public Pension Coalition. Malone said his organization did not commission the study and does not support Good Jobs First financially.

The study says payment-in-lieu-or-taxes (PILOT) deals in Memphis cost it about 14 percent of its total tax base. Also, more than 63 percent of the 64 PILOTs approved in Memphis are not meeting job creation, wage, or capital investment goals, the study says.

"Giving all this financial assistance to big businesses costs more than the ongoing cost of providing pensions to city workers, which has averaged about $33 million annually in recent years," the study says. "Annual subsidy costs (PILOTs), which in 2012 were $43.7 million, are running about 131 percent of the pension cost."

The Memphis and Shelby County Economic Development Growth Engine [EDGE] was formed in a joint venture by the governments of Memphis and Shelby County, which also approved the use of the PILOT as a tool for economic development. EDGE released a statement on the new report Monday afternoon and noted that the PILOT is the "No. 1 tool for creating jobs and tax revenue for Memphis and Shelby County."

"Recognizing the extremely difficult situation that all city of Memphis employees currently face, the statements made today by the Memphis Fire Fighters Association on PILOT tax incentives will hurt, not help city finances," EDGE officials said in a statement. "All PILOTs approved in Memphis — including projects for Downtown redevelopment, low-income housing and industrial development — incentivize investment that would otherwise not exist in the city of Memphis. Losing these projects would exacerbate current fiscal challenges, as more investment jobs locate elsewhere."

Still, Malone said Monday that Memphis citizens are being "ripped off by PILOTs" and said the $42 million in tax abatements were "corporate welfare."

"Now they're trying to put our people — the retirees — and trying to put them on real welfare," Malone said.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Uber and Lyft Services Not Allowed at Memphis Airport

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2014 at 3:22 PM

Lyft cars have pink moustaches.
  • Lyft cars have pink moustaches.

Memphis International Airport passengers hoping to catch a cheap ride from new-to-Memphis, peer-to-peer ride-sharing networks Uber or Lyft might be in for a surprise.

For now at least, both Uber and Lyft are not allowed to pick up passengers from Memphis International Airport. According to Memphis-Shelby Airport Authority general counsel Brian Kuhn, the companies, which offer cheaper fares than traditional cabs and operate through smart phone apps, would first have to get a special permit from the city of Memphis before they could operate at the airport.

"Once a carrier or business has one of those type of permits, they come to us and have an agreement with us to come on our property on our commercial drive. This is for all taxis, limosines, buses, and MATA buses, all the shuttles for hotels and motels, all the people who pick people up and take them somewhere for hire," Kuhn said.

That agreement with the airport also includes a fee that Lyft or Uber would have to pay to use the facility's lower commercial drive to pick up passengers. There is no agreement or fees for Uber or Lyft to drop off passengers, however.

Since the companies are so new here — both began operating in Memphis this year — Kuhn said he isn't sure if they would be required to get the same kind of city permit that regular taxes get or if the city would have to come up with a new permit.

"In the case of Uber and Lyft, they're a brand new concept from the traditional taxi cab concept. We're trying to look for how we should treat those type of companies in a dependable and safe fashion," Kuhn said. "Memphis may have to come up with a new permit since this a new concept. They're still struggling with that, so we're waiting to see what type of permit they'll come up with, whether it's the old or new type, to get this business going."

In the meantime, Kuhn said he has been asked to look into how other airports in cities with Uber and Lyft are dealing with the ride-sharing services.

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Beale Street Landing Is Open

Posted By on Fri, Jun 27, 2014 at 1:35 PM

After a decade of design, planning, construction, and an ever-evolving budget, the Riverfront Development Corporation's $43 million Beale Street Landing project officially opens to the public this weekend. The Flyer was granted a media tour today following a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the landing's playground.

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We'll be featuring more in-depth coverage of the project's history and budget in next Thursday's Memphis Flyer. But for now, here's a photo tour of Beale Street Landing.

A handful of children in bathing suits and their parents waited outside the playground this morning, as the staff and board of the RDC, Memphis city councilmembers, and others cut the park's ribbon.

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The small playground, positioned inside a man-made island, features a giant catfish tunnel named Big John (after RDC board member John Stokes), a slide, and an interactive water park.

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Kids can turn the water on by pushing a button with their foot, causing water to shoot from the tops of large metal cylinders designed to look like reeds. The water can be turned on between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.

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Next to the park is another small island with gardens and seating areas. RDC vice-president Dorchelle Spence said that area is designed as a "place of respite" where people can sit and watch riverboats and barges. That area will have free wifi.

Beale Street Landing's dock, where passengers load onto the American Queen and other riverboats, is made from barges so it can rise and fall with the river. Passengers access the boat by walking or riding in golf carts (available for the disabled or elderly) down the landing's helical ramp.

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According to Spence, the American Queen docks here 13 times a year. The Mississippi Queen docks 15 times a year, and two other boats — the Grande Mariner and the Grande Caribe — dock here four times annually. The Island Queen, a sight-seeing cruise boat, takes passengers on cruises at 2:30 p.m. daily and on dinner cruises at night.

The colors for Beale Street Landing's elevator shaft were chosen when its designers blew up a picture of the sun setting over the Mississippi River until only pixels were visible. They tried to replicate the colors of the Memphis sunset in the shaft. Visitors can enter the building from street level or from the deck atop the grassy roof.

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The grass roof of Beale Street Landing helps retain rainwater runoff, and it connects to the rest of Tom Lee Park.

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Inside the landing's building is a gift shop with snow globes, Elvis souvenirs, Memphis tees, and other Bluff City memorabilia for riverboat passengers. Spence said, when the building is rented out for private events, the gift shop shelving will be hidden.

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The Riverfront Bar & Grill, managed by the RDC, will have a soft opening this weekend with an official opening set for the weekend of July 4th. There's a full bar, Southern-style menu, and outdoor and indoor seating.

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Beale Street Landing's grand opening is set for Saturday, June 28th from noon to 7 p.m. There's a concert finale at 6 p.m.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Demonstrators Gather to Protest City Council Vote

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 6:03 PM

Protesters in front of City Hall say theyre angry about the city councils recent cuts to employee benefits.
  • Alexandra Pusateri
  • Protesters in front of City Hall say they're angry about the city council's recent cuts to employee benefits.

Honks rang out every few minutes Tuesday afternoon in support as drivers along Front Street read the signs protesting the city council’s recent decision to cut benefits for city employees.

The protesters are angry about a recent vote taken by city council members to cut major health care subsidies for retirees and spouses of city employees, which was previously reported in the Flyer.

Crowds of firefighters, police officers, retirees, and supporters stood in front and behind the building holding signs, some asking Memphians to wake up and others calling out Mayor A C Wharton and city council members.

Joe Norman, the vice president of the Memphis Firefighters Association, said the protest was about hope and educating city council members about what those cuts actually meant.

“We have folks who have given their bodies protecting the citizens of Memphis who are no longer able to do the job and didn’t want to retire but are forced to,” he said. “They have these injuries that have disabled them, and now the insurance that they have to use to treat their line-of-duty injuries is being priced out of their [income] range.”

And that’s not even including the spouses and families of those affected, Norman said.

“A secondary impact is what’s going to happen to the employees that are now on the job. The message has been sent to them that your public safety officers, your police officers, your firefighters are going to be forced into working until they’re senior citizens. You’re going to have an aging force.”

According to Norman, the cut to benefits has “crippled” those who have been employed in public safety for many years, and for those who are still on the job, it might lead to those working until retirement age.

Protesters also gathered behind City Hall facing Front Street.

“The message that we’re getting from the council and the mayor is that their biggest priority is capital improvement projects,” Norman said. “I can’t think of one capital improvement project that they haven’t liked. The kick in the teeth was they cut all the retirees’ health care benefits Tuesday night and the next morning, they’re giving $66 million to the Raleigh Springs Mall.”

The Greater Memphis Chamber has also taken a stand for the mayor’s plan, according to the union.

“[The chamber] keeps telling us the benefits are unsustainable,” he said. “They can’t tell us why. They have no math to back it up. They’re just like a broken record. It’s one of these issues where if you tell a lie enough times, everyone starts to believe it. You can tell from the crowd today that we’re not falling for it and the citizens don’t fall for it either. These benefits are not unsustainable. The pension’s been in effect since 1948. It’s got more money in it today than it did in 2008, prior to the recession.”

Norman says the city also refuses to compromise.

“If you spend any time in front of the city administration, it’s easier to nail a piece of Jell-O to the wall than get an answer that you understand,” he said.

Lydia Verret is the wife of a firefighter who has been working with the department for 22 years. To her, the city council vote felt “like a slap in the face,” she said.

“He’s supposed to retire in three years, and our health insurance is going to go up to $1,800. So we’re going to have to pay either our house note or our health insurance,” Verret said. “It’s unacceptable. He’s not a regular guy. He doesn’t have a ‘regular-guy job.’ That’s the least they could do. That’s what they promised. We planned our entire life on this and now they’ve lied.”

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Juvenile Court Improving But Still Has Problems

Posted By on Mon, Jun 23, 2014 at 8:17 PM

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The Shelby County Juvenile Court is getting closer to compliance with the 2012 Department of Justice Memorandum of Agreement, which came about after an investigation into the disproportionate number of black youth who come into contact with the juvenile justice system versus white youth.

Tonight, the third in a series of meetings designed to alert the public as to the court's progress was held at the Shelby County Schools' Frances E. Coe Administration building. Juvenile Court attorney Thomas Coupé presented the findings from the monitors over the three areas the court has been ordered to improve upon — due process, equal protection, and protection from harm with regard to the juvenile detention center.

Due process is the constitutional right to know what one is being charged with and the right to fight those charges. It also requires that courts follow legal procedures for the entirety of a case. The monitor found that Shelby County Juvenile Court is in partial or beginning compliance with 54 of 55 standards. Probation counselors are making sure children are being read their Miranda rights, and the probation department has developed a chart to help them make decisions in a race- and gender-neutral way.

But the monitor found that the court needs to be more open to helping with trainings and needs to improve the quality of its panel of attorneys. Although the number of children being transferred to adult court is declining, it's still higher than the state average.

Equal protection is the constitutional right to being treated no differently by the government than any other person or group. Juvenile court was found to be in partial or beginning compliance with 19 standards for equal protection.

The monitor's report praised the appointment of Lisa Hill, the coordinator who handles the issue of "disproportionate minority contact," the issue of more black youth coming into the juvenile system than white youth.

"Each month, we look at the numbers to see if disproportionate minority contact is occurring, and we have to look at what is causing that imbalance," Hill said.

But the court needs alternatives to detention programs, the monitor's report said. And they need to work on reducing the number of referrals to juvenile court.

As to the issue of protection from harm in the detention facility, the court was found to be in substantial or partial compliance with all 17 standards. The detention center has revised its use of force policy and has added an around-the-clock nursing presence. There's also a new policy to ensure that children with suicidal symptoms are seen by a mental health professional within 24 hours.

But there's a high turnover rate of staff at the detention center, and the monitor suggests that detention needs to continue to monitor and review serious incidents.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Memphis City Council Cuts Employee Benefits In Budget Vote

Posted By on Wed, Jun 18, 2014 at 10:59 AM

Memphis City Council members passed a nearly $600 million budget for the city Tuesday night that made deep cuts to employee benefits, changes some said were necessary to begin to right the city’s financially struggling pension and health benefits systems.

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The approved changes took away some major health care subsidies from retirees over age 65 and will replace them with Medigap coverage or another plan. The changes will also cut the spouses of city employees from the city’s health insurance plan if they are eligible to get insurance rom their employer. The changes will also levy a higher monthly charge of $120 for smokers on the city insurance plan.

Council members compromised with Memphis Mayor A C Wharton’s administration to cut an employee health insurance premium rate hike of 57 percent to 24 percent and to make that change in October instead of July 1, the beginning of the city’s 2015 fiscal year. It was the biggest council-made change to Wharton’s original health benefits overhaul. Though the percentage was basically cut in half, city finance director Brian Collins assured council members the change would not have a big effect on the budget.

All of the changes angered city employees and the unions that represent them. The council chambers were packed up until the budget passed just after 8 p.m. Tuesday. Council members heard from public speakers on the budget for nearly three hours before the vote.

Many of them were angered because they believed the city promised retirees and current employees a slate of benefits when they were hired and was now breaking that promise. Some union leaders shamed Wharton and the council from the public podium. An attorney from the Association of City Retired Employees threatened a lawsuit against council members if they passed the health benefit changes. City council attorney Allan Wade told council members he believed the changes were legal.

Most of the cuts were predicated on the need to start making higher annual payments to the city's pension system and to another struggling fund that covers employee benefits.

One thing that didn't change was the city tax rate. Council members agreed to keep it at $3.40, though they changed its distribution slightly to raise the funds for daily operations and lower payments to capital projects.

Another big issue faces the council when they meet again in two weeks that could ignite another round of employee ire. Council members are scheduled to take a final vote on changes to the city’s pension benefits. Those changes would move unvested employees to a plan that works more like a typical 501(k) plan.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Shelby Farms Road Delayed For One Year

Posted By on Tue, Jun 17, 2014 at 12:24 PM

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The project to build a road through Shelby Farms Park was delayed for one year by the Memphis City Council Tuesday as many council members questioned why the city was paying for a project through a Shelby-County-owned park.

The $30 million project would build a new north-south road through the park and alleviate what some consider to be traffic problems around the park.

Memphis would have contributed $6 million to the project, spread over several years. That local money would have triggered federal funds to pay for 80 percent of the overall project.

City engineer John Cameron said the county would participate in the project with in-kind services but would not put any money in it. The road would be a city roadway, he said, making it the responsibility of the city. Shelby Farms Park is in the Memphis city limits but the park itself is owned by Shelby County.

Council member Wanda Halbert said the city is in “dire” financial straits and the roadway should not be a city priority.

“We keep accepting responsibility for things we cannot afford,” Halbert said.

Council member Reid Hedgepeth motioned to table the project for one year. Cameron said the Tennessee Department of Transportation [TDOT] (which would be the funnel for the federal funds) is eager to see the project get underway and if the project isn’t started this year, it may be cancelled completely.

Laura Adams, executive director of the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, told council members they she backed the road project, noting it would bring better entrances to the park, new trails, and would alleviate traffic on the park-owned Farm Road, the only north-south roadway through the park.

“TDOT has told us if the project does not move forward today, it would never move forward and that the 80 percent federal funding will never again be available to help the city,” she said. “If we don’t do this, we will never allow Farm Road to be widened.”

Council member Kemp Conrad requested documentation from TDOT proving the state agency’s threat to remove the funding for the project. He said many urgent projects come before the council recently, noting the quick action demanded for the city’s purchase of AutoZone Park.

Cameron said he’d get the council member his correspondence with TDOT officials.

In the meantime, the project is off the table. However, council member Myron Lowery requested a letter from the council be sent to TDOT officials telling them why the vote was delayed and that the council does not want to lose the federal funding for the project.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Organization Looks to Improve Police Review Board

Posted By on Thu, Jun 12, 2014 at 1:12 PM

Memphis United Facebook
  • Memphis United Facebook

Memphis United has announced a campaign involving social media and town hall meetings to improve the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board, which has been reinstated by the Wharton administration after being inactive for four years, according to the organization. The Flyer covered Memphis United's early work on this issue in February.

At a press conference Thursday evening, members of the group spoke about their experiences with the Memphis Police Department and the Internal Affairs Bureau. Speakers included Paul Garner, an organizer with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center, who was arrested while filming officers last year. His process took months to complete with Internal Affairs and went nowhere.

“[The review board] existed nowhere but on paper,” Garner said to reporters. “Now, it has no subpoena power and no punitive authority.”

The board was also only allowed to review investigations that were completed by Internal Affairs.

Deborah Robinson, a freelance journalist from Las Vegas, also spoke to reporters after having an incident with Memphis police last month, where she was allegedly questioned and assaulted while filming an arrest at a bus terminal.

In December, the Memphis Police Department released its formal policy on recording, instructing officers to refrain from asking for identification or reasons for recording as well as stopping those in the process of recording.

“The officers ignored the policy,” Robinson said.

For inspiration, Memphis United looked at Knoxville as a model for the proposed improvements to the Civilian Law Enforcement Review Board.

The first town hall meeting for citizens to offer input into Memphis United’s work to “make [the board] more effective” is June 24th at 6 p.m. in the Lewis Davis CME Church, located in the Chickasaw Gardens neighborhood. The organization also has a hashtag for people to share experiences with Memphis police on social media, #CLERBspeakout2014.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Nuclear Response Center to Open This Month

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 2:02 PM

Inside the Regional Response Center in Phoenix.
  • Nuclear Energy Institute
  • Inside the Regional Response Center in Phoenix.

The Memphis Regional Response Center will open here on Friday, June 27 close to the former Memphis Defense Depot on Dunn Ave.

The center is the second opened this year by the nuclear energy industry to deliver emergency equipment to nuclear energy facilities in response to extreme events. The first was opened in Phoenix in May.

“The regional response centers will further increase the industry’s preparedness for severe challenges, regardless of their causes,” said Tony Pietrangelo, chief nuclear officer for the Nuclear Energy Institute [NEI]. “This is another example of the industry’s commitment to learn the lessons from the Fukushima accident in Japan and apply those lessons to enhance safety across the U.S. nuclear energy industry."

The centers will be able to deliver a full set of portable safety equipment, radiation protection equipment, electrical generators, pumps and other emergency response equipment to an affected nuclear power plant within 24 hours, according to the NEI.

The two response centers have cost $40 million to build and make operational. They'll cost about $4 million to operate each year. The cost for the entire project will be shared by U.S. nuclear companies.

Truck Stop Restaurateurs Withdraw Appeal for Temporary Use Permit

Posted By on Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:48 AM

A shot of the planned interior dining space at Truck Stop
  • A shot of the planned interior dining space at Truck Stop

Local restauranteur Taylor Berger and attorney Michael Tauer, business partners in the planned Truck Stop restaurant to be located at Central and Cooper, have withdrawn their application to appeal for a temporary use permit to operate food trucks on their site while they await construction permits.

The pair had hoped to operate a bare-bones food truck court at the Central and Cooper location since it will be at least a year before the Truck Stop's permanent building, to be created from cargo vessels, will be built and open for business.

They applied for a temporary use permit to operate the court this summer, but that was denied
by the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Code Enforcement. Berger said last Friday that they were planning to appeal the code enforcement office's decision at a Board of Adjustment meeting on June 25th. But Berger and Tauer have now withdrawn their application to appeal.

Once the construction permit process is complete, the original plan — with the permanent structure, new sidewalks, and street trees — approved by the Board of Adjustment in January will move forward. Truck Stop will operate as a hybrid food truck court/restaurant concept. Food will be served from both the permanent Truck Stop building and a rotating cast of local food trucks. Customers can dine inside or on a large patio on the back of the property.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wharton Waves It, Dwan Drops It

Posted By on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 1:02 PM

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Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Memphis public works director Dwan Gillom shared a magical moment last week before a news conference.

While we can't be sure what they were discussing, it sure looked like fun.

We were so happy to capture the moment on camera and wanted to celebrate the best way we knew how. So, we GIF-ified it. Enjoy.

New Bar Headed for Overton Square

Posted By on Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 10:25 AM

Inside the Zebra Lounges Chicago location.
  • Zebra Lounge
  • Inside the Zebra Lounge's Chicago location.

Chicago's iconic Zebra Lounge will open a second location in Memphis later this year.

The piano bar is slated to reside in Overton Square at 2114 Trimble Place. The location faces south toward the Hatiloo Theater, situated between Cooper and Florence. A building permit for the bar was requested Monday in a project valued at more than $157,000 to build out a "lounge" but no kitchen.

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"The bar will feature local Memphis musicians every day of the year, adding to the ongoing revival of Midtown Memphis," says the bar's web site.

The original Chicago location will celebrate its 85th anniversary at the beginning of July. The bar's website says its founding in 1929 makes it the second-oldest bar in Chicago.

The Chicago Zebra Lounge keeps late hours. It's open from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Monday through Friday, from 7:30 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Saturdays, and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sundays.

For more information, check out the Zebra Lounge website.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Brewery’s Future Remains Uncertain, But Beer Garden Exceeded Expectations

Posted By on Mon, Jun 9, 2014 at 1:07 PM

Before the team behind Untapped, the six-week pop-up beer garden at the Tennessee Brewery, kicked off the event’s first weekend in April, co-sponsor Michael Tauer wondered if anyone would even come.

“[Untapped co-sponsor] Taylor [Berger] and I had this moment before the project started when we said, ‘Hopefully, at least our friends will show up.’ We were just blown away by how many people came and brought their friends and people from out of town,” said Tauer, a local attorney who is also partnering with Berger on the proposed Truck Stop food truck court for the Cooper-Young neighborhood.

Untapped, which featured local craft beer, food trucks, and occasional acoustic music acts, was intended as a temporary “pre-vitalization” event to showcase the possibilities for the long-abandoned Tennessee Brewery building, which is under contract to be demolished this summer if its not purchased before then.

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  • Image Courtesy of Tennessee Brewery Untapped

The event, which ended June 1st, drew hundreds of people from all over the city. Berger said he started the event with 10 staff members but had to more than double that amount to keep up with demand for beer and food.

“I know how to run a restaurant, but this was like running a festival,” Berger said. “There were so many people, and each week, we had to ramp up and make changes. At its peak last Saturday, I had a dozen bartenders scrambling to keep up with the crowds, and they were just pouring draft beer, which is a very fast thing. But we were still getting in the weeds because we had hundreds of people wanting to drink beer.”

“We had no idea what to expect, but on the first weekend, we ran out of cups. We ran out of beer,” said Doug Carpenter of public relations firm Doug Carpenter & Associates, who also co-sponsored the event. “Each week, the crowd was larger than the week prior all the way to the end. The response was remarkable.”

So remarkable that Berger and Tauer want to keep it going. They applied for another special event permit to keep Untapped open on weekends at least until the brewery’s demolition date. But that permit was rejected by the Office of Construction Code Enforcement because, according to Administrator Allen Medlock “special event and temporary permits have prescribed time limitations and a specific number of times per year they may be conducted.” The partners would also need several additional permits from other agencies to continue the event.

But Berger said they are exploring other options. If the event were to continue, Carpenter and co-sponsor Andy Cates of Colliers International would not be involved. The future of the brewery building remains uncertain, but Untapped did bring about more inquiries from potential investors.

The event wasn’t without its detractors though. Jennifer Edwards, who owns a condo at The Lofts building next door to the brewery, said the event was too noisy.

“The noise level just from the sound of people was very invasive, particularly for those of us who have outdoor spaces,” Edwards said. “I’m not against development, but if there is going to be anything like that there in the future, it needs a much tighter occupancy limit in the courtyard.”

Edwards said the Lofts residents were split on their feelings about Untapped. Some supported. Some didn’t. Don Hutson, president of the South Bluffs Homeowners Association, which represents the interest of many homeowners near the brewery, said most residents there were supportive.

“The vast majority of our residents are for anything that is good for downtown,” Hutson said. “We had a couple people who live on the north end close to the event that complained that it was too noisy, and we had some traffic issues. But it's commerce, and that’s a good thing. When I moved to South Bluffs 20 years ago, there wasn’t much going on down here. We were pleased to see some things happening.”

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Temporary Use Permit for Truck Stop Hits Snag

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 8:16 PM

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Local restauranteur Taylor Berger and attorney Michael Tauer, business partners in the planned Truck Stop restaurant to be located at Central and Cooper, had hoped to bring food trucks to their site before construction begins on the permanent restaurant structure. But the Memphis and Shelby County Office of Code Enforcement has put the brakes on that plan for now.

The two won approval from the Memphis and Shelby County Board of Adjustment for their hybrid food truck/restaurant concept in January. But they're still awaiting permits before they can begin construction of the main building, which will be created using cargo vessels. The waiting process will mean the Truck Stop's building wouldn't be finished and open for business for about a year.

Berger said they had hoped to be approved for this temporary permit to operate food trucks on a concrete slab with a patio while they wait for construction permits.

"Basically, all we are asking permission for is to park [food] trucks on-site while we wait for permits," Berger said. "Hopefully, we will have all our permits in place to start building this winter, but it seems a shame to let that lot stay empty during the [food] truck season."

Berger said they plan to appeal the code enforcement office's decision at a Board of Adjustment meeting on June 25th.

If they win the appeal, the temporary permit would allow them to park food trucks there this summer. If approved, Berger said they plan to run electricity, add seating, and possibly sell beer if permits allow.

Once the Truck Stop's building is constructed, the concept would include one permanent Truck Stop food truck and a rotating cast of other local food trucks that would park on the lot for a few hours at a time.

The original Truck Stop plan drew concerns from some neighbors over issues of parking and traffic congestion. Berger and Tauer held several neighborhood meetings in the Cooper-Young area and tweaked plans to ease some of those concerns. Others had concerns over the restaurant's industrial design.

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More Than 7,000 MLGW Customers Remain Powerless

Posted By on Fri, Jun 6, 2014 at 3:27 PM

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  • MLGW

Nearly 43,000 Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (MLGW) customers lost power after a cluster of thunderstorms traveled through the Memphis area yesterday.

Between 1:30 and 4 p.m. Thursday (June 5th), 42,797 homes and businesses throughout Shelby County experienced power outages after harsh winds associated with the thunderstorms damaged utility poles and power lines.

By Friday afternoon, MLGW crews had restored power for more than 34,000 customers. But there are still more than 7,000 customers without electricity.

MLGW President Jerry Collins said the area’s biggest circuits serving the highest number of customers were restored first. Circuits serving a smaller amount of customers are next in line.

“What we’re down to now are hundreds of small outages that affect one, two, three, four, five customers,” Collins said. “That’s going to take longer, because it’s a much slower process. We should have everybody back in business by Sunday midnight.”

Customers without power today and into the weekend are encouraged to stay hydrated and to seek shelter temporarily elsewhere, if necessary. MLGW recommends customers to keep survival kits ready for power outages and other service disruptions. These kits can include things such as bottled water, canned food, prescription medicines, flashlights, a radio, batteries, and a first-aid kit.

Considering that thunderstorms are in the weather forecast for Friday as well as scattered showers this weekend, restoration efforts could be slowed. Collins, however, assures that MLGW will do its best to fully restore power expeditiously.

“We have all crews working, and we have eight crews in from out of town to help us,” Collins said. “We’re going to go as fast as we can and try to get power restored just as quickly as possible for all the remaining customers.”

To report an power outage, customers should call (901) 544-6500.
Outage numbers can be tracked via MLGW's outage map at mlgw.com/outagemap.

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