Memphis City Council reinstates Beale Street Bucks

Memphis City Council reinstates Beale Street Bucks

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The program that puts a cover charge on Beale Street is back--Memphis City Council approved reinstating Beale Street Bucks on Tuesday night.

The city council’s decision to reinstate the controversial cover charge known as Beale Street Bucks, approved by a 7-4 vote, comes with a lot of mixed reactions. It’s left many wondering if it will actually work.

Local leaders hope this will be a big step toward making Beale Street safer. They’re also not the only ones.

Memphis City Council reinstates Beale Street Bucks

"I think it’s a good idea,” said Dennis Flanagan, who works at popular Beale Street bar Silky O’Sullivan’s.

Flanagan said safety on Beale Street is vital.

“I promise, you ask anybody down here on a Saturday night,” Flanagan said. “I don’t care if you’re black, you’re white, green, purple, or yellow, they’d much rather come to a place that doesn’t have all this ugliness to it.”

That ugliness includes several fights, stampedes, and even a stabbing last month, all meriting police response.

A security consultant’s final report on Beale Street crowd control laid out 24 key recommendations, including discussion on bringing back Beale Street Bucks.

The report cites MPD statistics that show 30 percent of petty crime dropped when Beale Street Bucks was in operation.

Council Chairman Berlin Boyd voted yes, even though many of his constituents aren’t in favor of the cover charge.

“My town hall meetings was consumed by people all worried about Beale Street Bucks last year,” Boyd said. “They didn’t care about potholes or street repaving, the only thing they cared about was Beale Street Bucks.”

The idea left tourists visiting the Bluff City from around the world with mixed reactions.

“I think people will come in whether they have to pay or not have to pay,” said visitor Masha Huff. “If their cause is that big, then they’ll come in.”

Other visitors were more optimistic.

“Will a gang of troublemakers want to pay $5 every time they want to fight? They’ll go elsewhere," said another visitor.

WMC5 reached out to the council members who voted against the cover charge but didn’t hear back.

Beale Street Bucks could be reinstated as early as this weekend.

Jennifer Oswalt, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission, said her team has been in meetings all afternoon working out logistics.

“We’re still looking at past procedures to see what the best option to implement it going forward is. Whether or not it should be a voucher or fee and how much that voucher would be,” she said.

She said when the program will be implemented again is based on a variety of factors.

“It was based on weather, it was based on previous year’s attendance, other events in the area that we thought might be letting out and having people come to Beale Street from those events, so lots of things like that,” Oswalt said.

The DMC will include and work with MPD on all decisions regarding safety and security on Beale Street.

“We’ll just have a good discussion about what the best option is because our goal is to keep everyone there safe. Not to keep people off Beale Street, but everyone who wants to come feeling safe,” Oswalt said.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings said, “I applaud the action of the council,” when asked about Beale Street Bucks being reinstated.

Other recommendations include better training for security, better coordination between merchants, and more lighting on Beale.

Oswald said the DMC will report back to full council in January.

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