Local attractions look to Memphis, Shelby County leaders to reopen

Local attractions look to Memphis, Shelby County leaders to reopen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - We are three days into the first phase of the city and county’s Back-to-Business plan, and some of the area’s most beloved attractions are waiting to find out when and how they can open their doors to the public.

From March to June is when the Memphis Zoo takes in about half its revenue, so leaders said it's critical to be able to welcome visitors again. And they aren't alone.

"For us to continue to operate as a business, we need to add something to the bottom line. We need to make sure we have some revenue coming in," said Nick Harmeier, Chief Marketing Officer of the Memphis Zoo.

An empty Memphis Zoo is atypical in early May. But as the weeks have turned to months, zoo officials, like many others with closed-down businesses, are worried about their finances and long-term viability.

Under the city’s Back to Business framework, attractions could open at 50% capacity in phase two with a written plan, but they can also open in phase one given a thorough plan is submitted and approved.

Harmeier said the zoo has done that and they're waiting on word from the city.

The plan cuts capacity to less than 3,000 and closes indoor exhibits while continuing take-out style food service. Cash would also not be accepted.

"We will require everyone to wear face masks or coverings for the protection of our guests, animals, and our staff," he said.

At Elvis Presley's Graceland, officials told WMC Action News 5 Wednesday that they have a target reopening date of May 21 and have submitted a plan to do so.

Leaders at the Brooks Museum said they are making plans for outdoor events in June and a limited opening in July with "timed tickets" and "significant crowd control."

The Memphis Botanic Garden also announced Wednesday they are awaiting approval to open outdoor spaces only. They would begin by admitting members only for two weeks then allow daily admission guests. In late April, the MBG canceled their popular "Live at the Garden" summer concert series.

The Pink Palace Family of Museums declined to set a target opening date when asked Wednesday.

“We are working with the city to determine how and when we reopen our properties,” wrote a spokesperson from the Pink Palace Family of Museums. “Once we have a more definitive timeframe, we will definitely let you know. We are excited to be discussing reopening and want to do so in a manner that follows the city and CDC guidelines for our patrons.”

Leaders on the COVID-19 task force acknowledged the group of attractions as a whole present unique challenges in ensuring the spread of COVID-19 is limited, especially since they typically attract visitors from out-of-area.

“They do require a special degree of control, a special degree of consideration, to make sure we are doing everything possible to make sure we keep visitors, as well as staff, safe,” said Doug McGowen, Chief Operating Officer of the City of Memphis.

McGowen said several plans by attractions have been submitted which are being reviewed by the medical professionals on the task force as well as the Shelby County Health Department. No timelines for any reopenings were given.

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