City Council committee hears strong accusations around management of Beale Street

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It was a war of words during a Memphis City Council committee meeting Tuesday.

It included accusations of racism and cronyism. It was all over a battle of who should manage Beale Street.

"Imma tell all you, it`s gross discrimination in the greatest form," said Memphis City Councilman Joe Brown.

State lawmakers also came to weigh in on the discussion.

"If we let this go the way that it`s going now you will endorse the same economic discrimination, the same lack of prosperity that`s been going on in this city, this county and this state for far too long," said State Representative G.A. Hardaway.

The discussion began after Memphis City Councilman Martavius Jones said he requested an update on the management of Beale Street.

Strong words were shared in the City Council committee meeting after managing company 21 Beale said they were baffled as to why they weren't chosen to manage iconic Beale Street known to many as the 'Crown Jewel' of Memphis.

Dwain Kyles, chief administrative officer of 21 Beale said his company jumped through every hoop, and beat out their competition to manage Beale.

"The Beale Street Tourism Development Authority was adamant about not declaring us the winner. The reasons given were that we don`t have experience or requisite experience, our fees were way too high and way out of line," said Kyles.

He said his group is made of well-known people in Memphis with a wealth of property management and marketing experience and their fees were only a small percentage more. He called claims of racism unfortunate.

"These things matter. A lot. Nobody wants to bring their family to a city where people are slinging that allegation around," he said.

A representative for the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority said claims of racism and cronyism aren`t true and said after consideration 21 Beale wasn't fit for the job.

"There are a couple of things that happened in the past. There were a couple of red flags with the principles," said Casey Shannon.

The discussion spurred several council members to raise the question if they need to get involved in the process about who will eventually manage the street.

No decision was made at the meeting. The plan is to have the committee hear from the Downtown Memphis Commission, who is temporarily managing the street, in the coming weeks.