The Beale Street Task Force met Wednesday and discussed how to implement crowd control on Beale without charging people to enter the street.
The task force listened to Memphis City Council members’ observations from their trip to Bourbon Street in New Orleans. The council members' main takeaway is that while there is no cover charge to enter Bourbon Street, like Memphis’ Beale Street Bucks, the crowds there were well-controlled.
Owner of Eel Etc. Fashions on Beale, James Clark said that he believes the Beale Street Bucks program is “ruining Beale Street and hurting revenue.”
“We need to make Beale Street a place where everyone can come, not just the tourists,” he added. “African-American people resent the hell out of being charged.”
But, member of the Beale Street Merchants' Association and owner of Silk O’Sullivan’s on Beale, Joellyn Sullivan said no effort in the past has prevented the stampedes and violence on the street as well as the Bucks program.
However, council member Martavius Jones said the lack of stampedes and other issues cannot be solely attributed to the Bucks program.
“I just don’t think there’s enough data to support that,” he said. “We have to be careful before we make that particular generalization.”
James Holt, president and CEO of the Memphis in May International Festival and member of the task force, said that a cover charge won’t solve the two main issues on Beale Street: Crowd control and perception of exclusion.
“The problems won't be fixed with a cover charge,” he said. “It might have worked for a short time, but it alienated a significant percent of the population.”
He suggests the task force bring in a specialist to study crowd dynamics and establish ways to control it.
Chairman Berlin Boyd agrees, saying that the city needs an expert to access ways to control the crowd effectively on Beale without having a cover charge in place.
The task force held off its vote on recommendations to present to the city council, as its
tentative next step is to find a crowd control consultant, whose fee would be paid by existing Beale Street Bucks revenue.