More than $500K raised through Beale Street admission fee

Beale Street security fee collects more than $570,000

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Street musician Sam Wiggins is a staple on Beale Street.

He’s been playing the blues for tips for over 20 years on the famous street.

However, he admits his tip jar has been a little light since the Beale Street coverage charge was implemented back in May.

“I mean, I’m playing for tips out here. As soon as they come through the gate, you know they gotta pay $5, then they probably walk past me,” said Wiggins.

A Downtown Memphis Commission spokesperson says from Jan. 1 to Aug. 24, they have collected over $570,000.

Also, more than 150,000 people paid the $5 admission fee on Friday and Saturday nights and holidays.

Gisele Babis is visiting Beale Street from New Orleans.

“This is kind of a like a little miniature New Orleans. You can get the same action over there for free,” said Babin.

However, city officials say the fee on Beale Street was always about security.

"It’s basically a massive open bar and it’s just a way to control the crowd,” said Kemp Conrad, Memphis City Council Chair.

Conrad says this summer’s stampedes on Beale Street have significantly dropped since adding the fee.

He also says the city has made other investments like adding mounted patrol and sky cops.

“And with the money we’ve made, we’ll be able to fix the Handy Park gates so you can’t climb over or pass things through,” said Conrad.

Wiggins says Beale Street does feel safer.

“Yeah, I mean we have lots of surveillance, police up and down. It's about the safest street in Memphis!,” said Wiggins.

The Beale Street cover charge will stay in place until the end of the month.

The fee kicks in at 10 p,m.

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