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$5 fee back on Beale until end of summer

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — City Council voted Tuesday to keep a $5 admission charge for Beale Street on Friday and Saturday nights, as city officials search for a permanent solution to violence that keeps popping up along one of Memphis' most popular streets.

The ultimate goal, of course, is keeping everyone safe on Beale Street. Unfortunately, the historic spot has suffered a rash of crime and violence.

The cover charge is in effect from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m Fridays and Saturdays through the end of the summer. Council said they will will look for new solutions after that.

"We looked at everything that we could do immediately to make Beale Street safer," Memphis Police Director Michael Rallings said. "And one of the immediate things that worked was increasing security, barrier control and Beale Street Bucks."

Officials feel the cover charge is a reasonable reaction to Beale street crime — it will limit crowds and help pay for upgraded security enhancements like lighting, fencing and cameras.

"All the money from this fee goes to fund another $400,000 in security upgrades which will further keep Memphians and visitors safe," Chairman Kemp Conrad said. "So I can't for the life of me ascertain why anyone would not vote for this. It makes too much sense."

Critics of the plan point to other cities that don't have a cover charge for popular entertainment districts, but MPD scanners on Beale tracked around 18,000 visitors on Memorial Day weekend. City Council and MPD are open to other ideas, but for now, they feel this is the most secure choice.

"I just try to keep people safe," Rallings said. "I don't care where you`re coming from, I don't care what you look like, I want you to be safe and I want to keep my officers safe."

Historically, data show there is less crime on Beale when there is a charge involved. Now council members have the next few months to see if the cost is worth the result.

Peter Fleischer contributed to this story.

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