Local officials, business owners brace for economic impact of coronavirus

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With travel bans and major sports cancelled around the world, the economic impact is being felt locally.

The Friday before St. Patrick’s Day on Beale Street would be normally be packed, but it was much quieter Friday as concerns of coronavirus spread.

“Normally today on a Friday, it’s a nice day, the streets would be full now,” said Leo Allred, owner of Tater Red’s. “As you can see, it’s just a scattering of people now.”

He said customers have been few and far between.

Friday was the first day since cancellations of major events due to coronavirus.

“The cancellations, I think they’re going to hurt everybody in the whole city,” Allred said. “We all survive by the impact of people, and the impact of people has really slowed down because of that.”

Allred said he’s hopeful more people will have an attitude like visitor Larry Monroe, who’s in town from St. Louis with his family.

They still went through with their plans, even though the St. Patrick’s Day parade was postponed. They were hoping to enjoy everything else Beale Street has to offer.

“I think everyone should take precaution, wash their hands, not too close contact, but I don’t think it should deter them from coming out and supporting small local business,” Monroe said.

Memphis Tourism leaders said the impact has been minimal so far, but that’s starting to slowly change as hotels report groups cancelling.

They’re hopeful things pick up ahead of Memphis in May, which is still a go at this point.

“We’re cautiously optimistic that it’s going to work out for us,” Memphis Tourism President Kevin Kane said. “That’s a big event for us. May is our biggest travel month of the year, so we’re holding our breath to see how this thing works out between now and May.”

Memphis Tourism leaders are working on a  new marketing campaign that will be more regionally focused with the hopes of reaching people within a drive.

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