Council members debate reinstating Saturday night fee on Beale Street

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The question of how to improve Beale Street safety was a hot topic for city council members Tuesday night.

A task force has recommended two dozen changes to make, but some feel enforcing all of the changes — including the Beale Street Bucks fee on Saturday nights — would be discriminating against black youth.

Recent violence on Beale Street has city leaders talking about what’s next.

“The last thing we need in the city of Memphis is somebody saying, 'Somebody is murdered or somebody is killed on Beale Street,'" said chairman Berlin Boyd, who opened the discussion in a committee meeting Tuesday.

A task force came up with 24 improvements to make to Beale Street safer, but one of them remains controversial: Reinstating a fee to enter on Saturday nights.

“I’ve always been against charging on Beale Street. I don’t like that," said councilman Joe Brown.

Some council members argued it’s discrimination, especially since task force research shows young African-Americans visit Beale the most on Saturday nights — compared to Fridays and Sundays where it’s more Caucasian patrons.

Council also voted to repeal an entrance fee a year and a half ago.

“You want to reinvent the wheel? It wasn’t right from the beginning," said councilwoman Jamita Swearengen.

Another point brought up was the lack of free entertainment options in Memphis.

“To me, that’s not the vision we want for our city," said Swearengen.

However, others argued the research proves the fee curbs violence and that’s the time it’s most likely to happen.

It was mentioned how, out of 24 stampedes on Beale Street, all but one occurred when there was no fee to enter.

Regardless, if approved, it would only mean future discussions for the fee and the ability to start acting on other suggestions.

Some of those include changing the position of squad cars, adding more lighting and putting in bollards.

“We need to start taking some of these recommendations and putting them into place so we’re proactive instead of reactive after a bad situation could occur," said councilman J. Ford Canale.

The recommendations could be brought up again during full council meeting Tuesday tonight.

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