Beale Street empty as residents told to stay home, tourism slows

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The weekend on Beale Street will look much different as those living in the Mid-South have been told to stay home, and tourism to the iconic street was brought to a standstill.

Several businesses, like the iconic B.B. Kings Blues Club, boarded up to protect their goods inside while they ride out the wave of unknown caused by the coronavirus crisis. 

Elliott Schwab’s family once owned A. Schwab, a general store of sorts with an old fashioned soda fountain.

The store is a staple on Beale, as it’s been in its location for more than 140 years. It was there when Yellow Fever hit Memphis in the 1800s.

“We shut the business down,” Schwab said. “Everybody left the city, so we just left. We weathered that.”

Years later, they went through another turning point in history.

“Went through the 60s and the early 70s, we were the only thing down here,” Schwab said.

Now, they’re navigating the uncertain age of the coronavirus one day at a time.

The store has been offering curbside pickup, but it’s been slow. 

“Sold some t-shirts, sold some ukuleles, little bit of this, little bit of that,” Schwab said.

Schwab, looking forward to the day when businesses will be allowed to have customers inside once again, said he hopes every night will be as busy as a normal Friday night. 

Several restaurants along Beale Street said they are offering take-out services, so there is still business to be had.

WREG reached out to the two spots that are boarded up, Coyote Ugly and B.B. King, but have not heard back. WREG also reached out to the Beale Street Merchants Association but so far have not heard back.

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