Is a cover charge coming back to Beale Street? After recent downtown violence, it’s possible

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — With business picking up and a recent string of violence downtown, leaders with the Downtown Memphis Commission said they would support a temporary fee to enter Beale Street if the city and police suggest it.

Some people say a cover charge on Beale may reduce stampedes and other incidents from occurring on the street. Others say a charge may hurt downtown business.

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“There was a stampede out here Saturday, and when the crowds get large, stampedes happen pretty regularly,” B.B King’s restaurant door greeter Nate Illsley said.

Illsley said requiring a cover charge to get onto Beale Street on weekends may help with crowd control.

“It’s really controversial whether or not it’s legal to charge people to come onto a public street,” he said. “But ultimately, with the crowds being as large as they are, it hurts business.”

Back in May 2019, Memphis City Council voted to implement a temporary $5 fee to enter Beale Street after the popular nightspot saw an uptick in crime.

There is no cover charge currently to enter, but leaders with the Downtown Memphis commission said in the interest of public safety, they would support one if the city and Memphis police suggest it.

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Not everyone thinks it’s a good idea.

“I think it will drive away business,” Beale Street visitor Dawson Cutchins said. “If you have a cover charge, it will incentivize people not to come.”

“I think they’ll spend less money on vending, drinks and buying souvenirs,” visitor Gary Barstow said.

Illsley sees it both ways. He said it’s exciting to see Beale Street pick up again.

“I have a lot of friends working up and down the street,” he said. “We’re really thankful people are coming back.”

FOX13 reached out to several city council members who said there is not a current resolution to bring back the cover charge, but this is something they will likely discuss soon.