Beale Street Landing won’t fill empty restaurant space

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Beale Street Landing will not have a restaurant in its riverfront space this year, but will serve as more of an event space, at least for now.

The riverboat dock and gathering space was built to house a restaurant when it opened in 2014.

A restaurant was open in the large space for a while, but that didn't work. A popup restaurant moved in for a bit but didn't return this year.

"After testing two different restaurant concepts, the decision was made to test alternative uses of the space this summer," operator Memphis River Parks Partnership  said in a statement. "As a public asset, the facility should be open to and used by the public.

"This summer, we are working with community groups to host their programs in Beale St. Landing for free or minimal rental costs. We are producing a series of public events and the facility remains available for private and corporate rentals. Last week, the South Main Association hosted their monthly meeting to a standing-room-only crowd and we also produced a conversation with Groundswell Design Group under the banner of our new event series: ‘Urban M’. We are in active conversations around regular programming which will be announced soon."

Since taxpayers helped foot the $43 million bill to build Beale Street Landing, WREG asked a City Council member whether that money was well spent.

"Well, I wouldn't say it was a waste," said City Councilman Berlin Boyd, a member of the riverfront development task force. "I would say it's something that since it's built, it's something that we have to deal with now.

"We can't go backwards and say what we should have not done. The only thing we can do is go forward and say how can we make this thing become an asset in the city of Memphis?"

In April the Memphis Riverfront Development Corporation, which spearheaded development of Beale Street Landing, announced they were changing their name to the Memphis River Parks Partnership. The new name is designed to demonstrate the connection between the parks around the river and the community.

A new president and CEO, Carol Coletta, stepped in too.

Boyd says now, during the transition, is the time to make the landing more of a community space and give new leadership time to evaluate it.

And for now it will be an events space.

What's next for the Tom Lee Park site, once Memphis in May and Barbecue Fest clears out?

"Make sure you have a plan that's in place that can actually put something in there that's meaningful, that's lasting and that is actually profitable," Boyd said.

"Beale Street Landing does create and utilize a place for the community to gather because you utilize the green roof a lot, you utilize a splash pool for the kids."

Boyd says beyond Beale Street landing, there's work happening to connect the riverfront to other parts of the city.

"I think you will see some exciting news to come."