Memphis bars and restaurants remain open — for now

Memphis bars and restaurants remain open — for now

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Nashville city leaders ordered bars and restaurants to close because of COVID-19 concerns, but the City of Memphis hasn’t made any such order.

Businesses on Beale Street are still open, but there were noticeably fewer patrons on Wednesday.

It’s not what Lisa Langwieder had in mind when she booked a trip to Memphis.

“I wanted to come to Memphis and check out Beale Street and this is supposed to be the famous Beale Street and there’s no one here,” said Langwieder.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland’s emergency declaration this week in response to COVID-19 did several things, including making it easier for the city to get federal and state funding and buy equipment and supplies.

One thing it did not do was order bars and restaurants to shut down.

“Directives with regard to the bars and restaurant closing is something that would be within his authority but he has determined it is not necessary at this point in time,” said Jennifer Sink, Chief Legal Officer for the City of Memphis.

Sink says the mayor has been in contact with the restaurant community.

“They're taking a lot of measures to make sure that they have a safe working environment for the employees and for their patrons,” said Sink.

Sink says not only does the mayor have the power to close bars and restaurants, so does the health department.

For the mayor’s part though, Sink says mayor Strickland will continue watching developments closely.

“Every single day he is constantly re-evaluating the situation to determine what is the best measures to be taken to protect the health and safety of this community,” Sink said.

Sink said the mayor also has the authority to order a curfew, should it become necessary.

“He does have that power to implement a curfew. Again, he does not think it’s necessary to do that at this point in time,” said Sink.

Sink says if it ever got to the point where the city had to order bars and restaurants to close, the mayor would get input from a number of different people, including Memphis police.

According to the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, which gives guidance to local governments in Tennessee, mayors don’t have the power to order a quarantine. That’s a decision left to the county health officer and state health commissioner.

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