MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Downtown Memphis Commission stood its ground Monday, saying it can legally charge a $10 fee to enter Beale Street when it’s at risk of overcrowding.
Attorney Carlton Orange sat down with WREG to discuss the idea of charging to walk on a public street.
He said cities like Williamsburg, Va., charge to enter historic buildings, but not necessarily walk on the street.
He said the idea of charging isn’t illegal, but he has concerns about the reasons behind it.
“In my opinion, this is a form of economic discrimination. They’re targeting a group. I don’t know what or who that group is,” Orange said.
Orange said the commission needs to identify exactly how the money will go towards safety.
He said it also needs to find a way to quantify what overcrowding really means.
The fee went into effect following an incident on Beale where a man passed out in his blood, and onlookers took cellphone video of him and robbed him.
The Downtown Memphis Commission admits it didn’t discuss the cover charge with a city attorney immediately before implementing it, but said the city has trusted Beale to the commission since the 1980s.
The commission compared the cover charge to the Kansas City Power and Light District. That area in Missouri encompasses eight-and-a-half blocks.
A person at the district’s office said it charges a $10 cover sometimes late on weekends, but that fee guarantees entry to one block for an event and takes care of cover at two different bars or restaurants.
The Downtown Memphis Commission also said Beale Street is more than just a public street.
It will continue to charge the fee when the street is at risk of overcrowding, particularly on early Sunday morning hours.