Committee votes to suspend Beale Street Bucks program

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Beale Street Bucks program is suspended.

A city committee voted to suspend the program, which forces people to buy a voucher before going on Beale Street on Saturday nights.

"The council attorney and city attorney are reviewing what this vote actually means," a spokesperson for Mayor Jim Strickland said.

The controversial program was revived in 2016 after a series of incidents in Downtown Memphis, including the death of Memphis police officer Verdell Smith.

The revival was part of a plan to make Downtown Memphis, particularly Beale Street, safer.

"It shouldn't be a tax based upon the people that visit there," Martavius Jones said.

The program runs on Saturday nights and requires guests to pay $10 to enter Beale Street. That $10 entrance fee comes with an $8 voucher to spend at bars, restaurants, and shops on Beale.

"It is, at present, one of the components of our public safety or our comprehensive safety plan," Terence Patterson, Downtown Memphis Commission president and CEO, said.

Beale Street Bucks returned in April 2017 after a hiatus, but will be discontinued—at least for now.

Downtown Memphis Commission will now move forward by consulting attorneys to determine if the program is legal. In February, a lawsuit was filed that claimed the program was discriminatory.

"A lot of questions I get - why do you charge black people to go on Beale Street," City Council chairman Berlin Boyd said.

Boyd said the decision on things like Beale Street Bucks should be left up to the city, not the commission.

"The city should have the overall say in what we do on our street," Boyd said.

Copyright 2017 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.