MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Downtown Memphis Commission dropped the $10 cover charge for Beale Street.
In a letter to Mayor A C Wharton, President Paul Morris said they “understand that the fee was bad for business and unpopular with many,” but also pointed out its efficacy at reducing crime in and around Beale Street.
The cover charge was only implemented twice. Both times, Morris says there were “zero negative incidents on Beale…and crime in the ward around Beale Street dropped 50%.”
He also said while the entertainment area is “completely safe 99% of the time…we had a series of public safety breaches after midnight in July and August that had to be quickly and strongly addressed to protect the public.”
Many people expressed their dislike of the cover charge. Randle Catron, who runs the Beale Street Development Corporation, was even planning to file a lawsuit over it.
“You’re targeting one group of people, and that’s African-Americans, and when you do that, you stepped on my toes,” he said.
Merchants, however, said race had nothing to do with the change. Instead, implementing the fee was about safety.
“We weren’t thinking in terms of race,” Ty Agee, president of the Beale Street Merchants Association, said. “We were just thinking of right or wrong and trying to do what’s right for Beale Street.”
Some also questioned the legality of a cover charge. Morris maintained it was legal, and said it’s been part of a citywide discussion for about two years.