MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - A special Beale Street task force convened to discuss the future of the entertainment district following a trip to New Orlean's Bourbon Street.
The task force is intended to grow Beale Street, but it isn't without controversy.
Memphis City Council Chairman and Beale Street Task Force Chair Berlin Boyd said the council's attorney, Allan Wade, said he did not have to step aside despite his firm, Boyd and Associations, having inked a deal for sponsorships with Beale Street Merchants Association.
"I don't have to recuse myself from this task force or chairing this task force," Boyd said. "I know there has been a lot of questions, but I just wanted to put that out there."
"Boyd and Associates has a proven track record of developing businesses and Councilman Boyd, in part, has a great head for business," Beale Street Merchants Association Vice Chair Joellyn Sullivan said.
Despite the looming controversy, task force members discussed their recent trip to Bourbon Street where they noticed New Orleans police officers using mounted patrols for crowd control.
Memphis Police Department said that might be cost prohibitive in Memphis.
A recent change to the Beale Street Bucks program has patrons now paying a $5 cover charge.
Downtown Memphis Commission reported the street stayed safe throughout the summer and nearly half of the people who visited Beale Street on a Saturday night came back on subsequent weekends. Those are all signs, merchants say, the public feels safe again on Beale Street.
"The merchants' association is very aware that we have a tremendous potential to grow what's happening on Beale Street," Sullivan said.
The task force will reconvene in two weeks and decide what options for changing Beale Street they will present to Memphis City Council.
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland's office said it had no comment when asked about Council Chairman Boyd's company and its partnership with Beale Street Merchants Association.
WMC5's Kendall Downing waited 90 minutes to speak to Boyd about the controversy, but never got the chance before he had to leave Memphis City Hall.