VOL. 133 | NO. 182 | Thursday, September 13, 2018
Council Approves Conditional Return of Beale Street Cover
By Bill Dries
The Memphis City Council voted 7-4 Tuesday, Sept. 11, to allow Memphis Police and the Downtown Memphis Commission to reinstate a cover charge for the Beale Street entertainment district. (Daily News file/Houston Cofield)
After much debate and consultation with attorneys, the Memphis City Council voted Tuesday, Sept. 11, to allow Memphis Police and the Downtown Memphis Commission to reinstate a cover charge for the Beale Street entertainment district.
Under terms of the resolution, the decision would be made using “a needs-based determination in the interest of public safety” and using “an established set of criteria” along with consulting with the Beale Street Merchants Association.
The 7-4 council vote also included adopting 23 other recommendations from the Beale Street Task Force for crowd control and safety on Beale.
The cover charge implemented by Beale Street Merchants but abolished by the council a year ago was the only controversial item in the recommendations based on a report from Event Risk Management Solutions (ERMS) consultants.
The consulting firm was hired by the task force and paid for using revenues from the cover charge.
Council member Kemp Conrad proposed two weeks ago using a cover charge whenever there are expected to be 10,000 or more people in the district.
But council chairman Berlin Boyd said he still had concerns that the cover charge would be used only when there are large predominantly African-American crowds in the district.
Council attorney Allan Wade said there should be more specific criteria for imposing a cover charge that could also include a crowd number. He also urged a trial period with the council reviewing data and results.
Wade also pointed out the ERMS study did not find a correlation between stampedes in the district and size of the crowd. Wade thought that could make the city vulnerable to a second legal challenge in Memphis Federal Court.
An earlier lawsuit over the cover charge became a moot point when the council voted to abolish any charge but kept security checkpoints into the district in place for spring and summer Saturday nights.
Some council members, including Worth Morgan and Ford Canale, said it was imperative for the council to act on at least some of the recommendations following a shooting early Monday morning at the Purple Haze nightspot that left at least four people injured.
But Boyd and fellow council member Martavius Jones countered that Purple Haze isn’t in the district proper despite a recent Chancery Court decision that makes the club at Second Street and Lt. Lee part of the district for purposes of staying open until 5 a.m.
Boyd and Jones said there are security lapses that need to be plugged including an end to wanding for weapons those coming into the district after 2 a.m.
Jones said the Labor Day weekend signaled the end of the seasonal peak on Beale.
In council committee Tuesday, there was more discussion about a developing proposal for a monthly transportation utility fee that would be a revenue stream for city road projects and the Memphis Area Transit Authority.
Council member Edmund Ford Jr., who is developing the proposal, said the fee is based on the city’s stormwater fee on monthly utility bills. That fee is based on an estimate of stormwater produced. The transportation fee would apply to residential and nonresidential property based on car trips they generate.
The council approved $300,000 in city funding to match a larger amount of federal funding for a bus rapid transit line between the University of Memphis and Downtown called the Midtown Connector.
Council members also approved nearly $100 million in state funding for a set of four road projects for streetscape improvements that include $83,200,000 for Shelby Drive between Paul Lowry Road and Weaver. The project would be the start of creating a second entrance into the Frank Pidgeon Industrial Park. The other projects are a repaving of Harbor Avenue, one of the two main roads on Presidents Island, and a combined $8.2 million for two sections of Poplar Avenue – Front to Bellevue and Yates to Interstate 240.
In other action, council members approved a construction landfill by Blaylock & Brown Construction Inc. on Shelby Oaks Drive near Summer Avenue that the council had delayed voting on twice before.
The council delayed a vote until November on a 53-room motel by hotel developer Nimesh Patel on Getwell Road south of Shelby Drive that included extended-stay rooms. It also delayed for two weeks a vote on a zoning change sought by Shelby County Schools at 2601 Ketchum Road, the site of the old Airways Middle School. With the zoning change there is the ability to seek permission from the state for a digital billboard on the southern border of the property facing Interstate 240.
The council approved a two residential lot development by Charles E. Lou on Thor Road west of Center Road, as well as a rezoning of residential land to commercial mixed use on Summer east of Graham for the move of Jun Lee Trading Post, which is nearby on Summer Avenue. The council gave the greenlight to two free-standing apartment buildings on the northwest corner of Cooper and Higbee Avenue.