MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Long considered a possibility, Beale Street merchants are now seriously considering making folks pay a cover charge to enter the entertainment district. The video of a young man beaten last weekend and left passed out on Beale Street, with no one stepping up to help, is what’s driving the discussion over a possible cover charge.
If some merchants get their way, you may have to pay a cover charge just to get behind the barricades on Beale Street during certain hours.
The man who runs A. Schwab, the oldest general store in the country, doesn’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea and might attract more families. That’s why he sells ice cream for kiddies and spiked milk shakes for adults.
“I think it will keep people in the street and keep it a little bit safer. Keep people causing trouble out,” said James McCreless.
Merchants say a cover charge on Beale would be legal because it’s not just a street – the Tennessee legislature designated it an historic district. A special law allows bars to stay open to 5 a.m., and Beale is the only place in the state where that’s done.
McCreless says there are usually no major problems, but not always.
He said, “Every business on Beale Street is looking to explore it so I think there is way to do it.”
WREG found out the way it might work. Merchants are looking at giving some kind of coupon or ticket that can be used to buy something on the street. This way, you’d get something for your money. Those who can’t afford to pay would be kept off the street.
Opinions are mixed about whether or not that might destroy the flavor of a street built around the blues and hard times.
Beale Street visitor Jason Varner said, “That will deter people from coming and it will lose some of the esteem that it has. I think Beale Street is awesome how it is. It’s just a terrible thing that happened that time. ”
One tourist from San Antonio visiting for Elvis week didn’t like it, but thought visitors would cough up the money.
“People do come to Memphis to come to Beale Street, so I bet most people would be willing to pay,” said Katherine Nydegger.