MEMPHIS, Tenn. — It was a quiet weekend for Memphis’s downtown entertainment district, which has seen more than its share of violence in recent weeks. The city rolled out its beefed up security plan on Beale Street, which yielded mixed responses.
“It was very, very clear that Beale Street is a safe place to be,” said Silky O’Sullivan’s owner Joellyn Sullivan.
The security changes were obvious to many Beale Street customers and businesses. There were police officers, sheriff’s deputies, extra security equipment and lines for Beale Street Bucks.
Sullivan and other business owners told WREG that June is the slowest month of the summer on Beale.
Many said this weekend’s business was comparable to other June weekends in the past, even with the implementation of the new Beale Street Bucks program.
After 10 p.m. Saturday, patrons paid $10 to get on the street, but they got a $7 credit to spend at businesses.
“I think it was lighter than what the typical Saturday was, just given the change, but I felt really good in terms of balancing vibrancy with the public safety,” said Downtown Memphis Commission President and CEO Terence Patterson.
Beale Street Development Corporation executive director Lucille Catron said business was considerably worse with the Beale Street Bucks.
She is prepared to file a lawsuit, challenging the charge.
“Our patrons was minimum to none, and a lot of merchants suffered Friday and Saturday night,” Catron said.
The Downtown Memphis Commission said while feedback has been mixed, the program is young.
Patterson said he will continue to collect data over the coming weekends and wants to keep the conversation going.
“We’ll get better at it,” Sullivan said.
Patterson said there were a couple glitches where businesses could not take the Beale Street Bucks.
He said the changes could last all summer depending on how things go.
WREG did a crime check of the area around Beale and, for the most part, found very few offenses.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office said it provided about 15 deputies to assist MPD.
MPD Interim Police Director Michael Rallings told WREG in a statement, “The Memphis Police Department is monitoring the entertainment district and the surrounding area. We will work alongside the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office and the Tennessee Highway Patrol to protect the safety of all patrons in the downtown area.”