Tuesday, June 4, 2019

City Council to Consider Keeping Beale Street Cover Through Summer

Posted By on Tue, Jun 4, 2019 at 3:47 PM

click to enlarge Beale Street - BEALE STREET MERCHANTS ASSOCIATION
  • Beale Street Merchants Association
  • Beale Street

The Memphis City Council will consider later on Tuesday (today) extending the fee to enter Beale Street on certain nights through the end of the summer.

The council voted in May to instate a temporary $5 entrance fee slated to last through Memorial Day weekend.

The fee was put in place after a pair of shootings and stampedes took place one weekend earlier in May.

Jennifer Oswalt, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) said last month that since 2014, there have been 24 stampedes on a non-charging night and one on a night when there was a charge.

Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said then that the fee would help with crowd control and that during his time with the department, the only solution that’s worked consistently to reduce the number of incidents on the street is Beale Street Bucks.

However, police reported that during the time the most recent fee was in place over Memorial Day weekend, despite barricades, crowds rushed the gates and surged the street. Police say this led to disorderly conduct, altercations with officers, and minor injuries.

Rallings said the incidents would have been worse without the fee in place. 

click to enlarge Live footage of the Beale Street crowd on the Friday night before Memorial Day - MPD
  • MPD
  • Live footage of the Beale Street crowd on the Friday night before Memorial Day

Now, the council will vote on a resolution sponsored by Councilman Berlin Boyd, that will keep the fee in place on Friday and Saturday nights through the end of September.

“Beale Street is a tough place, and I don’t want to discriminate against anyone, but I think it's reasonable control,” Rallings said of the fee. “I’m just trying to make it to October without some negative incident that jeopardizes what happens on Beale Street.”

The entrance fee is one of the 24 recommendations made by the crowd control consultant, Event Risk Management Solutions, last year. Council chair Kemp Conrad said 20 of the 24 recommendations are in place or in the process of being implemented.

Conrad said the $5 fees will go toward implementing security measures on the street, such as installing more SkyCops. Since the fee was reinstated in early May, about  $160,000 has been collected. Conrad said about $340,000 more is needed.

The council voted in 2017 to end the Beale Street Bucks program, which charged a $5 fee on Saturday nights during peak season. In 2018, the council voted to implement the fee on a needs basis.

Some of the criticism of the fee in the past has been that it discriminated against certain groups of people. But, Rallings said Tuesday that the data collected through scanning IDs between May 24th and 27th doesn’t support that.

He highlighted a graph showing that the majority of visitors were from 38127, which encompasses Frayser and other parts of North Memphis; 38126 composed of parts of Downtown and South Memphis; and 38109 near the Tennessee/Mississippi border. The data also shows that a significant portion of the visitors that weekend were from Chicago. 

click to enlarge Beale Street visitors by zip code - MPD
  • MPD
  • Beale Street visitors by zip code

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