Since the $5 cover charge to enter Beale Street has been reinstated, nearly $400,000 has been collected, but officials with the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) say none of the funds have been spent yet.
The Beale Street cover charge was reinstated in early May after a weekend of shootings and stampedes occurred on or near Beale Street.
The following Tuesday, Memphis Police Department Director (MPD) Michael Rallings, along with representatives with the DMC asked the Memphis City Council to put the fee back in place. It was originally slated to be in place only through Memorial Day weekend, but after more incidents occurred over the holiday weekend, Rallings returned to council again in June, asking that the fee stay in place through the end of September.
Between the second weekend in May and the second weekend in July, the entrance fee has been collected from 99,481 visitors totaling $382,460. But, none of that money has been spent yet, according to the DMC.
Officials anticipate that the fee will generate $644,000 by the end of September if there are no rain days. Assuming there are some rain days, about $500,000 will be generated. This amount will be enough to cover the intended uses of the funds prescribed the city council, according to the DMC.
Per the council, the money will eventually be used for additional lighting and cameras on Beale, a new, non-climbable fence around Handy Park that will prohibit items from being passed through, bollards on Rufus Thomas and Second Street, and closer real-time monitoring of cameras on Beale.
The enhanced monitoring of Beale will cost $75,000 a year, while the fence will be a one time expense of $200,000, the additional lighting and cameras are a one time expense of $30,000 each, and the bollards $165,000.
DMC officials say they are working to “maximize the utilization of these funds to further our security measures.” The commission is in the process of evaluating which sections of the street need more lighting and preparing the fence project for bid.
Jennifer Oswalt, president of the DMC, said by installing more and better lighting, safer street access, and other measures that promote pedestrian safety, the plan uses design elements to address some of the current security issues.
The goal is to “enhance the patron experience and change the way crowds moves through the street without creating an increase in the perceived level of security measures.”
“Memphis is the original American music city, and we owe so much of that to the authenticity of the Beale Street experience,” Oswalt said. “Working with the 24 security and safety recommendations determined by the consultant hired in 2018, we are developing a plan to create a truly welcoming and safe entertainment district.”
In early 2018, the city hired the firm Event Risk Management Solutions to find ways to control the crowd on Beale. The firm, led by Peter Ashwin, produced 24 recommendations for the city. Among them was the reintroduction of the entrance fee.
The council voted then to reinstate the fee on an as-needed basis, despite push back from some members. Now, the fee will be in place through the end of September and will likely return next summer.
Other recommendations included setting the maximum capacity on the street to 20,000 people, restricting Beale Street to pedestrian traffic only, and redesigning the street’s entry points. All 24 recommendations have been implemented at this point.
DMC staff believes that the fee, working in conjunction with the other 23 recommendations, is leading to less overcrowding on weekend nights and reducing the overall risk of an incident occurring on the street.
This story has been updated with the latest admission numbers from the DMC.