Bellevue Inn Shut Down After Daily News Investigation

By Rosalind Guy

The Bellevue Inn, a South Memphis motel featured in an Aug. 24 Daily News investigative story about prostitution, was closed as a public nuisance today by the Shelby County District Attorney General’s office.

The motel, which is near Bellevue/Jesse Turner Park at Bellevue Boulevard and Kerr Avenue, was closed for “drug trafficking and prostitution,” according to District Attorney General Bill Gibbons.

The police began monitoring the inn after The Daily News story was published, according to George Buzard of Gates Lumber, a source in The Daily News’ investigation.

Other motels closed under court orders citing the same reasons – repeated arrests on the property for drug- and prostitution-related offenses – were the Lamplighter Inn at Bellevue and Lamar Avenue and the Garden Inn and Royal Inn on American Way.

The owners of all four properties are due to appear in General Sessions Civil Court Friday before Environmental Court Judge Larry Potter. The prosecutor’s office will take the position that the Bellevue Inn should not be allowed to reopen because this is the second time the motel has been closed as a public nuisance, Gibbons said after supervising the closing of all four motels Tuesday afternoon.

The Daily News conducted a month-long investigation of the prostitution business last summer. Prostitution arrests along Bellevue, including at the Bellevue Inn, accounted for about 20 percent of the 729 prostitution-related arrests Memphis police had made to that point in 2007.

Buzard, whose lumber company is directly across the street from the Bellevue Inn, told of seeing women lift their skirts to entice people driving down the street. “I can see this going on, so I know what they’re doing,” he said in the August article. “And the motel (owners) know what they’re doing and they’re not doing anything about it.”

Buzard said today that Memphis police began working with him to watch the motel as a result of The Daily News investigation. From the same window he once saw constant traffic to the hotel, Buzard watched today as police shut down the business and posted signs on the wooden fences and motel room doors saying the business was closed as a public nuisance.

The nuisance statute is a state law that usually results in businesses being allowed to reopen once they have agreed to take specific steps to curb crime on and around their properties. Gibbons has used it against motels, bars and even the Pepper Tree apartment complex in Whitehaven as a way of addressing quality-of-life issues.

Read more about the closing in Thursday’s edition of The Daily News.