Beale Street merchants consider cover charge to enter street

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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.


  • Skeptic

    This idea has been tossed up every year for at least the less 15 years. As long as there are crowds things will happen. A cover won’t stop it.

  • Rebecca

    While it may keep the riff raff out, it will also keep good people from coming there. It’s too expensive as it is not to mention paying for parking and now this? By the time I pay to park and enter Beale I might as well go home. What they need to do is to keep the beggars and homeless, and the people that do the flips in the street for money out. I’m there to go to the bars and hear music not to be bugged or begged for money and street flippers. If they start charging a cover to get on Beale they need to stop charging cover at each of the bars and not charge for parking. It’s just another thing for the city to drain the citizens’ funds in an already too expensive city.

  • John T. Dwyer

    I used to walk the beat on the old Overton Square when crowds were huge. Some drunk, some stoned, some drugged, some mental.
    Halloween, Christmas, and New Years crowds when the streets were closed off. People were wall to wall and shoulder to shoulder. Black, white, poor, rich, the famous and the infamous all got along great. Funny how an area like Beale Street with it’s own precinct doesn’t seem to have the protection.
    True we had minor incidents in the square but they were quickly remedied by way of stick, fist, and brass knucks. It was the the thugs and thieves who went around stating how dangerous the square was, as they sported their John Gaston turbins, arm casts, and wired jaws.

    A cover charge for a public street? Nahhhh! Won’t work. First thing you know the ACLU will file suit to stop it. Beale Street entertainment establishments are too wise to let this happen.
    This idea is like charging to drive through the old Shoney’s on Summer, or Eastgate or Grant’s Parking lot in Frayser, or even Audubon Park in the old days.

    If you look at it truthfully, the only people who have actually been beaten and robbed down there, have wandered off the range, and got set upon by wolves. On other occasions somebody goes down there drunk acting a fool and gets his clock cleaned. Naturally, Beale Street gets blamed for it due to proximity.
    40 years ago, we told people the square wasn’t dangerous if you used common sense and good judgement. It only became dangerous if you tried to hurt other people, rob other people, steal women’s purses, break into cars, or try and hit a cop.

  • pissedoffpolicewife

    Different ideas on this issue have been thrown around for some time now, but I remember one idea that was absolutely genious…… pay like $10 cash to get on beale but that $10 is then given back to you in the form of “beale bucks”(paper coupons), those could be used at any business on beale street. Therefore, you wouldn’t actually be paying to get on the street, as you would probably spend that $10 anyway. We all know that crime stats and poverty, among other things, go hand in hand. (It’s a fact, so don’t argue this point with me, you won’t win) So the people that statistically cause problems, would not be able to get in. At the same time, the businesses on beale, who normally generate lower revenues might benefit if they could run a special, like $1 beer with beale bucks (where a beer might normally be $5 with straight cash) and that might attract people into the businesses that they may sometimes pass up. I know when i go to beale, there is no way im going to be able to go into every store, club, and bar. It’s a simple, smart solution that i think most people could agree on.

    • Don

      All of the bartenders in the wonderful Pubs will not cut anybody off from drinking until they get drunk enough to fall of of the stool and bust his head open.
      The bartenders and pubs should be responsible for anything that happens to drunk patron.

  • Tori

    I’d pay $5 if I get free drink ticket thst can be used at any bar.
    But honestly, you’ll have more fun at Overton Square, Cooper Young, Broad, Brookhaven Circle, or South Main…

  • Lee Wong

    No one wants to pay for walking. It’s not support the tourist business. Walking Street in this world must not pay. To solve the crime’s problem need policemen and security policy.

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