If the Memphis City Council okays a change to the city's current open container law, open plastic containers of alcohol will soon be allowed beyond Beale and onto Main.
This would be to the chagrin of some downtown residents and business owners, though. At a public meeting last week, several voiced concern over the way the new policy could negatively affect the neighborhood.
Under the city's current open container ordinance, alcohol can be consumed only within two blocks on Beale, but the amendment would extend that zone to Main from A.W. Willis to E.H. Crump.
But, council member Martavius Jones, who is sponsoring the amendment, said he plans to propose changing its language to also include blocks surrounding Main, from Mud Island on the west to Danny Thomas on the east.
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The city council was set to take its final vote on the issue last Tuesday, but Jones said he wanted to hear feedback from downtown stakeholders before moving forward.
The idea to expand the open container zone in the city, Jones said, stemmed from his and other council members' trip to New Orleans last year. They went to observe crowd-control, among other things, on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter.
"If you look at a Tuesday afternoon, New Orleans is a fun place; Memphis is a fun place as well, but I just think that we can have more life and more vibrancy, more businesses flourishing, more activities for residents and visitors to downtown," he said.
However, attendees of the meeting said they're concerned about the possible crime, litter, and safety issues that could arise, as well as the "drunkenness" and "undesirables" that would potentially be attracted to the area — especially with a police shortage downtown. Residents said that they don't want people "sitting on the stoop, drinking in their front yards."
"Let Beale Street be Beale Street," said Patrick Reilly, owner of Majestic Grill, "and the rest of downtown be what it is. Not being on Beale Street is an asset to us."
Reilly said opening up the zone could risk the growth of the city's core and compromise the "elevated" image and distinction that he said he and other business owners on Main try to attain.
Wayne Tabor, of the Metropolitan Memphis Hotel and Lodging Association, said "on the positive side" it would be beneficial for tourists and conventioneers. He said the association would support the amendment if there are regulations put in place to control "any trouble or drunkenness on the street."
Ernie Mellor, president of the Memphis Restaurant Association board, suggested that the council pull the ordinance as written, and "do some more homework" before voting.
Jones said a provision could be put in the ordinance that allows the council to repeal it if the crime rates do increase within the zone.
"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."