Recovery Begins at Beale Street Anchor B.B. King’s

By Bill Dries

One of the cornerstones of the Beale Street entertainment district was surrounded by a chain link fence Tuesday, Oct. 8, following a pre-dawn fire Monday in the kitchen of B.B. King’s Blues Club, on the southeast corner of Third and Beale streets.

(Daily News File/Lance Murphey)

The work of repairing the club and its upper floors, as well as a neighboring retail souvenir and music shop, could begin as early as Friday, said Al James, operations director for Performa Entertainment Real Estate Inc., which runs the district.

“The biggest problem is the sprinkler system worked,” James said of the water damage, which a team from ServPro Disaster Recovery was tending to Tuesday.

The multistory building sustained damage to its roof and upper floors in a fire that remains under investigation by the Memphis Fire Department.

James said it appears to have been a grease fire in the kitchen of the club, with damage from the actual fire limited largely to the kitchen area.

“The kitchen took the hit,” he said, as lunch-hour tourists snapped pictures of the club’s sign and watched the ServPro teams working out of a large tractor-trailer rig behind the chain-link fence.

The three-story building includes a second-level seating area for the blues club and a third-floor restaurant, Itta Bena. All are closed.

The first work will be getting the water out of the building and then beginning work on smoke and fire damage to see what structural repairs are needed.

The club opened in the early 1990s and was the district’s first business to use the licensed naming rights of an internationally known entertainer and celebrity, following years of courting various celebrities.

It was the first of five B.B. King’s Blues Clubs to open across the country, with King, the blues legend who got his start on the post-World War II Beale Street, performing there once a year.