A city ordinance requires that panhandlers apply for a free permit in order to be allowed to ask for money. But the Center City Commission wants to place even more restrictions on panhandling.
Tuesday morning, the Memphis City Council’s public safety committee passed a pair of CCC-proposed ordinances aimed at curbing panhandling. One ordinance establishes restrictions on how close panhandlers can come to ATMs, hospital entrances, banks, trolley stops, and other public areas. That ordinance allows some zones downtown where passive panhandling (the panhandler doesn’t touch or follow the person they’re asking for money) is allowed.
The other ordinance would ban the sale of single beers in most downtown convenience stores. There are eight stores in the area that would be affected. It's bordered by Mill on the north, Fourth Street in most areas of the east (the border extends to Lauderdale at one point), Vance on the south, and Riverside on the west.
The small committee meeting room at City Hall was standing-room-only, as people on both sides of the issue packed the space. Many downtown business proprietors, including The Peabody Hotel's Doug Brown, spoke up in support of the ordinances. The owner of Jack’s Food Store took the other side, saying the beer ban would severely hurt his business. He claimed customers from all walks of life purchase single beers and should continue to have the right to do so.
Midtown resident Ceylon Mooney expressed concerns that the anti-panhandling ordinance would push panhandlers into his neighborhood. Councilwoman Wanda Halbert, the only committee member to vote against the no-panhandling zone ordinance, agreed.
“I’ve experienced panhandling at grocery stores and Wal-Mart in Whitehaven. I’m not sure how this ordinance is fair for people in other parts of the city,” Halbert said.
The council will further discuss the beer ban ordinance at its next committee meeting on Tuesday, March 9th. Both ordinances will be discussed in a first reading in city council on March 9th, as well.