When he's on stage performing his show, “Almost Elton John & the Rocketmen,” Jerred Price dresses as Elton John. “I come out in platform shoes, sequined glasses, and suits and we rock and roll,” Price says.
Off stage, Price usually wears a button-up shirt and a pair of slacks or jeans, but he still is rocking and rolling as he gets the job done as president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association.
Price, 32, who was elected president in February, recently launched “DNA’s Fight the Blight Program” with Taylor Berger of Two Broke Bartenders, to clean up blighted areas of Downtown and Uptown Memphis. The crew took on its first three properties in the Uptown area on July 31st.
It all began when Price called Berger to get someone from Two Broke Bartenders to do some lawn maintenance on some of his properties. Berger is the operating partner of Two Broke Bartenders LLC and Party Memphis, the group that owns Railgarten, Loflin Yard, Rec Room, Bounty on Broad, and Highland Axe & Rec.
“He told me the story about how he formed this company to help people who are out of work in the service industry due to COVID," Price says. "I thought, ‘What a great way to give back to people, and help people maintain a living.”
It struck a chord with Price. “As president, I get calls and our district captains get calls about blighted spaces downtown. We try to work closely with 311, the action center they’ve got for complaints and neighborhood concerns. We try to work closely with Steve Shular (special assistant to the mayor for neighborhood concerns), but there’s only so much they can do and chase after these concerns and overgrown lawns and illegal dumping.
“So, I said, ‘Why don’t we, as the association, help neighborhoods and develop a program where we can tackle the issues ourselves? What better way than a company full of people who used to be service industry bartenders and waiters and give them some more work and money in their pocket?’”
Price called Berger and said, “How would you like to help partner with DNA and help fight the blight?’ And he said he’d love to do it.”
Jay Livingston and Lauren Dunn from Two Broke Bartenders tackled the first three lots. “Two were vacant lots that were just overgrown,” Price says. “One was an abandoned home.”
"I went Friday and met them for our launch of the program, so to speak. It was basically overgrown lawn and shrubbery and trees, and tires that were being dumped. Trash was all around the property.”
Price says Livingston and Dunn cleaned it up and got it back to a level that was more maintained. While we were there, a neighbor asked what we were doing. We said, ‘We’re here to clean it up.’ She was just elated. She said, ‘I’m so happy somebody is finally cleaning up this property.’”
The job was done in four hours. “They got all three properties done.”
Livingston, 36, a former bartender at Chili’s Wolfchase, also is a deejay. He was amazed at how overgrown the properties were. Where the house was, he says, “You couldn’t even walk up the stairs or see the front door. We knocked out some of the grass that was two-and-a-half feet tall.”
A bartender, Dunn, 33, helped open Eight & Sand at Central Station Hotel. “I love slinging cool drinks,” she says.
She did “a lot of weed whacking and vine removal” at the uptown properties." As for her specialty in Two Broke Bartender projects, Dunn says, “I really enjoy anything that’s going to help property really pop and make them look beautiful. Whether it’s yardwork or laying some flagstone — just anything that helps. Things that take a little bit more creative eye.”
"That was only three of many such properties," Price says. “There are several dozen, I’m sure.”
The group is looking for sponsors for the program “We have to pay the company and the bartenders and service people that are doing the work. We want to pay them and make sure we have the money to send the crews out there. We’re looking for companies that are passionate about blight to be sponsors. And we’ll promote the sponsor through social outreach through the Downtown Neighborhood Association and our email and our bi-weekly email (The DNA Biweekly Newsletter).” (Those wishing to become sponsors can email email@example.com.)
“What we would like to do is start sponsorships at $500 for the month. That should pay for the services for that month for us to hire the crews and go out and tackle the concerns. If we find it picks up, we may do two sponsors for the month.”
People who want to report downtown or uptown areas of blight, also can email the DNA, Price says. “If they’re a member of DNA, they can call their district captain and report the issue as well. All of our phone numbers of the board of directors are on our website, dnamemphis.org.”
An insurance adjuster, Price also serves as commissioner for Memphis City Beautiful. “So, this is right in line for my passion for a cleaner, more beautiful Memphis as well.”
And f you want to catch Price’s Elton John show, he will perform 7 to 10 p.m. August 7th at Lafayette’s Music Room in Overton Square. To see a video of Two Broke Bartenders at work on DNA's Fight the Blight project, click here.