Members of the public joined Memphis City Council member Martavius Jones Thursday to discuss the good, bad, and ugly of allowing open alcohol on Main.
Currently under the city’s Open Container ordinance, open alcohol can only be legally consumed on Beale within a two-block area.
But, if the council votes to amend the ordinance, it will be legal to carry an open container on Main and the surrounding area bordered by E.H. Crump on the south, A.W. Willis on the north, Mud Island on the west, and Danny Thomas on the east.
Councilman Jones, who is sponsoring the amendment says the idea came after his and other council member’s trip to New Orleans, an open container city.
Jones believes the change could spark economic development and increase the vibrancy of Downtown to be somewhat like that of Bourbon Street. The goal is also to increase activity during events like Trolley Nights on South Main, he said.
However, Downtown business owners and residents spoke against the amendment, citing safety, crime, and trash among other concerns for their opposition.
Owner of Majestic Grill, Patrick Reilly said that the amendment is “shortsighted, premature, and dangerous.” Convincing his customers that downtown is safe, he said, is his biggest struggle. Allowing open containers on Main would compound that, he said, especially with a shortage of police officers in Downtown Memphis.
Similarly, owner of Rizzos, Michael Patrick questioned how much more crime this change would bring to Downtown.
Others spoke on the negative impact that allowing open containers could have on the residents and families living on Main. “It’s not the character of Memphis,” one man said. “I hope it's never the character of Memphis.”
Jones said a provision could be put in the ordinance that allows the council to repeal it if problems arise.
“If we see those ills, we’ll rescind it,” Jones said. “If it is creating the actual fears some of you may have, we take it off.”