Beale Street restaurants prepare for first weekend reopened to customers

Coronavirus

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It’s first Friday in weeks restaurants on Beale Street will be allowed to welcome customers through the door. 

But walking down the iconic street, things will look and sound much different and will be closing much earlier.

Some people Friday afternoon said this partial reopening is a start, but there’s a ways to go before the street can fully be enjoyed again.

Inside some spots, tables were marked off to allow for six feet of space between customers. 

Live performances are not allowed.

“I think the goal right now is to make Beale Street more of a restaurant district,” said Kevin Kane, President and CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Gatherings of 10 or more people on the street are also not allowed. 

“The outside bars will be closed, and people will not be able to walk down the street with open containers,” Kane said.

Barriers were put up as well to encourage people to use the sidewalk and not congregate in the street.

But pandemic or not, there’s no denying the street’s legacy.

“We googled to see if this was available,” said Angie Nowak, who was visiting from Grand Rapids, Michigan. “We saw that we could take a walk, and so we’re just seeing the sites.”

Nowak and her boyfriend had to make a trip to Arkansas for a family emergency. 

They decided to stop in Memphis, and they’re first-time visitors. 

“There’s no one here,” Nowak said. “I have my mask just in case.”

Her story was similar to Jeff and Carlyn Johnson from Virginia. They were also forced to travel during the pandemic for family reasons. They too were not expecting much to be open and wanted to take a walk down Beale. 

“We were actually in Texas before we came here, and we ate out at restaurants, and it was really a strange feeling to eat at a restaurant,” Jeff Johnson said.

Looking ahead as the city opens in phases, the goal is to make sure customers and employees are safe.

“They want to follow all the protocols,” Kane said. “They want to do the right thing because they don’t want to see us go backwards.”

Restaurants are operating at a limited capacity for now, and those restaurants will be closing at 10 p.m. for the time being.

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