Health department issues directive targeting Beale Street bars

Health department issues directive targeting Beale Street bars

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Thursday, the Shelby County Health Department released another health directive -- this time aimed at full-service restaurants.

This comes after photos were shared from Beale Street on Saturday night showing large numbers of patrons on the street.

“You know, it’s been a moving target to try and keep up with all the directives,” said Joelln Sullivan, owner of Silky O’Sullivan’s.

Joellyn Sullivan, owner of the world famous Silky O’Sullivan’s Irish pub on Beale Street, is still digesting the Shelby County Health Department’s new restrictions for bars.

“There’s some interesting components to it that we got to kind of drill down and figure out. Just came out at 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon... that’s challenging,” said Sullivan.

Health Directive No. 9 states any restaurant whose food sales are 50% or less than their alcohol sales has to close, regardless of their licensure by the Tennessee Alcohol Beverage Commission.

Drinks can only be served at tables now. No more standing or sitting at the bar, even to eat.

“We were starting to put more of our employees back to work,” said Wilbur Hensley, owner of Blues City Café,

Wilbur Hensley, owner of Blues City Café, says business is on track to be down 75-percent for the year - removing bar stools could mean removing an employee from the payroll.

“You hug them. You tell them that you’re trying to do the best that you can do and that we will just pray we can get through this,” said Hensley.

Tourists are slowly coming back to Beale Street.

The Fuentes family is visiting from Dallas.

“It’s been awesome. Some people are wearing masks. Some people are not,” said Imelda Fuentes, tourist from Dallas.

And it’s those who are not, particularly 20-somethings, says the health department, who are spreading COVID-19.

The virus is already hurting so many Beale businesses like River City Pedalers.

“It’s very, it’s very tough on us. It’s very hard. Nobody’s wanting to come out and enjoy themselves and it’s pretty hard,” said Ching Rodriguez, River City Pedalers.

Now forcing business owner to make more tough decisions.

“We’re gonna do our best to go by what the health experts think is the right thing to do,” said Hensley.

The new restrictions go into effect Sunday at midnight.

Restaurants that can stay open can’t serve alcohol to people who aren’t eating.

Customers can only stay two hours and closing time is still 10 p.m.

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