Beale Street Blues: Sales down, restaurants closed

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC-TV) - The failures on Wall Street may be trickling down to Beale Street.

Local business leaders say the winds of the current economic storm are starting to take a toll on Memphis establishments.

EP Delta Kitchen on Beale may be the latest Downtown casualty of the troubled economic climate: the bar and restaurant shut down for good earlier this month.

Pat O'Briens also recently closed its doors. A manager said sales were slow.

Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau President Kevin Kane says there are multiple reasons that force businesses to close, but tough times are hitting home, with businesses reporting a 10 to 12 percent decrease in sales. Tourists are spending less, and bartenders say their tips have gotten smaller.

But Kane says that despite the statistics many businesses are actually having a good year. One reason for the sales decrease is that 2007 was a strong year for entertainment and hospitality.

Memphis' tourism and hospitality industry employs more than 50,000 people, and the city relies on the industry to generate sales tax revenues.

But Kane says he expects Memphis to weather the hard times because it's a destination for travelers from around the world.

"I'm not worried about Beale Street. I think its going to be fine in the big picture. We have millions of visitors on an annual basis."

English tourist Kent Pearce says Americans should count their blessings when it comes to the economy. With gas prices at about $9 a gallon in England, things could be worse.

"Your's are brillant. I think if you go to England and pay the prices there...then you'll really complain."

Bar owner Silky Sullivan says times will be tough for a while, but he's confident that business on Beale will survive the fiscal storm.

"When times are hard, people like to party for some strange reason."

Tough times, after all, are how the blues began.

Click here to e-mail Lori Brown.