Confusion at City Hall over Beale Street Bucks Program

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- City officials call Memphis in May their Super Bowl, attracting hundreds of thousands of people downtown for festivals and activities.

It also draws in big crowds to iconic Beale Street.

It's why the Downtown Memphis Commission said Beale Street Bucks is vital this month.

Right now, it's how they`re controlling crowds and keeping the street safe.

"I hope in the future we don't have to do this. In the present, we need to implement this program, so we can alleviate overcrowding and better monitor and work with MPD," said Downtowns Memphis Commission President Terrence Patterson.

The program charges visitors $10 on busy Saturdays after 10 p.m. In return, patrons receive an $8 voucher to be used in the local businesses.

Since Beale Street Bucks started last summer, it's created controversy.

It's in the middle of a major lawsuit.

On Tuesday, council members addressed the concerns like where the money is going and if it gives the impression of profiling people.

"I think it looks bad because we only charge one night. That's just perceptionally as an African American male, it looks bad to me. I take offense and take it personally," said chairman Berlin Boyd.

During a council committee meeting, members voted to suspend the program.

During Tuesday's council meeting, members proposed to ban the program, but suspended discussion until next meeting.

The council's attorney was asked to offer an opinion on who owns of the street.

Right now, the Downtown Memphis Commission is the interim manager.

"I still say the city owns the property. We have management agreements with various entities so the city should have the overall say," said Boyd.

The DMC said their attorneys would work with the attorneys at city hall to hash the confusion out. Meanwhile, they said it will be business as usual until the council makes any decisions.