Beale Street Bucks program comes under fire again

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The Beale Street Bucks program that is meant to secure the famous street in Downtown Memphis is being called into question again.

A few more Memphis City Council members proposed dissolving the cover charge program.

"We're charging taxpayers to pay for security on Beale Street. That isn't right," council member Jamita Swearengen said.

The Beale Street Bucks program, which goes into effect on busy weekend nights, took in more than $250,000. It was put into place because of security scares and supporters believe the program has worked to make Beale Street safer.

However, Swearengen and other critics of the program say taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for something that Beale Street businesses should be responsible for.

Downtown Memphis Commission confirmed Beale Street businesses are responsible for security on the street, according to their leases.

"[Beale Street Bucks] has always been intended to supplement security, the additional safety and security," Downtown Memphis Commission Interim President Jennifer Oswalt said.

It's unclear how the $250,000 proceeds from the Beale Street Bucks program will be used. It's also unclear whether the Beale Street Bucks will remain in place.

The Beale Street Task Force will present its recommendations for the program in two weeks. A final decision on the program is expected to be made during that meeting.

Council member Worth Morgan pressed for no action on the program Tuesday.

"It got dropped on us today, and it hasn't been on the agenda to dissolve Beale Street Bucks program," Morgan said.

Downtown Memphis Commission said Beale Street Bucks has made the street safer by offering a form of crowd control and cutting down on stampedes.

If the council eliminates Beale Street Bucks, Memphis Police Department could have to dedicate more officers to securing the entertainment district.

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