Since 2008, the Levitt Shell has been providing a place for Memphians to experience free music. This summer, they'll start selling wine and beer.
When the Shell opened, its charter members decided that part of creating a safe and entertaining environment for people of all ages was keeping alcohol out of its free events. "Since then," says Anne Pitts, executive director of the Shell, "we've realized that it will be a good source of income for us, and that it's not antithetical to the family-friendly atmosphere we build here at the Shell." On Tuesday the City Council passed a resolution to allow the Shell to sell beer and wine at events, as well as letting people bring in their own drinks.
The family-friendly atmosphere Pitts speaks of is certainly a key part of the Shell, and a main attraction for those who frequent its concerts. In the past, the no-alcohol rule has been ignored by some attendees, and regulars have voiced discontent with the unruly behavior of some who brought it in. "The new policy is a positive for us," says Pitts. "Having it out in the open is going to give our security team and the Levitt Shell a better chance to control it."
Pitts says a survey regarding alcohol at the Shell was conducted last fall. "The overwhelming result of that survey was that people wanted it to happen," says Pitts. She also points out that proceeds from the alcohols sales will help sustain the Shell's operation. "One thing people don't usually know about the Shell is that the Levitt Foundation only funds about a quarter of our yearly budget," says Pitts.
"One thing we're very proud of," says Pitts, "is that our shows are very engaging to kids, and we don't want to deter that in any way. We're going to be extremely vigilant about keeping it open and appropriate for everyone involved. We consider that to be a sacred part of the Shell experience."