MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said all options are on the table to keep Beale Street safe, including a possible limit on clubs’ hours of operation.
Strickland’s comments come a day after a shooting that killed one person and left two more in critical condition in front of Beale Street club The Green Room around 2:15 a.m. Sunday.
“Coaches often say, nothing good happens after midnight,” Strickland said.
“I think we’ve really got to talk to Beale Street owners, why do they have to be open that late? I know it’s a long tradition, and state law allows them to be open until 4 or 4:30, but is it really necessary?”
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The shooting happened within about 10 feet of five police officers and two police cars, Strickland said. But the police presence “didn’t deter these young men at all.”
Part of the problem, Strickland said, is weak state laws that allow easy access to guns while letting some criminals off with minimal prison time. He said 25% of guilty pleas for aggravated assault in Shelby County courts last year resulted in no jail time, and less than a year in prison on average.
“State law has allowed the proliferation of guns all throughout our community but does not adequately punish the wrongful use of those guns,” Strickland said. “There needs to be a heavy price to pay in our judicial system if you use a gun to harm someone.”
That could change at the state level soon, he said.
“This legislative session, we have a real shot at putting teeth in our criminal justice system,” he said. “201 Poplar is too much of a revolving door.”
Programs like Beale Street Bucks have resulted in fewer crime incidents, Strickland said, and he’s in favor of putting them back in place. Beale Street does wanding and IDs at high traffic times. Strickland did not know if those were going on at the time of the shooting.
Strickland was not clear on whether Beale Street patrons were prohibited from carrying guns outside on the public street.
The city is meeting with the Downtown Memphis Commission and Police Chief CJ Davis this week to make downtown safe ahead of the upcoming Grizzlies playoff games, Strickland said.
No one besides Strickland would speak on record about security issues today. The Downtown Memphis Commission said they would have answers “soon” to our questions about security.
Police Chief Davis sent out this statement Sunday:
“The Memphis Police Department is outraged at the senseless and brazen acts of violence that took place this morning in the presence of officers. The proliferation of gun violence continues at epic levels throughout our nation; however, we are committed to bringing every resource to bear to end these critical incidents in our city. We will continue working and strategizing with our downtown stakeholders and city officials to create a safe and welcoming environment for our residents, businesses, and visitors.“
The identity of the person killed in the shooting has not been officially released by police.
UPDATE, April 12:
According to the Downtown Memphis Commission, use of wand metal detectors on Beale Street is seasonal from April to September. It starts at 9 p.m. weekend nights, and ends based on crowd size.
Prior to the shooting over the weekend, wanding was used earlier in the evening for patrons to get onto Beale Street.
The shooting happened after wanding stopped on Beale Street.