Federal ruling lets Beale Street Bucks cover charge return to Downtown
Days after a federal judge ruled against an injunction of the program, Beale Street Bucks returned to Downtown Memphis on Saturday night.
Visitors to Beale Street had to pay a $10 cash cover charge starting at 10 p.m., but received an $8 voucher to use at businesses on Beale the same night.
Terence Patterson, president and CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission, said the commission was waiting on the judge’s ruling, and rolled out the program for Saturday nights throughout the summer immediately.
Last year, patrons received only $7 back in vouchers.
“The goal of the program is the public safety,” Patterson said. “And obviously we want to make sure we’re giving as much value back to the consumer as we can.”
A lawsuit against the program is still active, but U.S. District Court Judge John T. Fowlkes Jr. ruled Wednesday the commission could continue the program pending the outcome of the suit. While ruling that a case had not been made for an action as extreme as an emergency injunction, Fowlkes Jr. lamented the existence of the program.
“Even though the Beale Street Bucks Program is limited in scope and purpose, the court is troubled by the idea that this great urban city, which is ‘Home of the Blues,’ has no alternative but to impose a fee for entry onto this most vibrant entertainment venue,” the ruling said. “It is a sad state of affairs.”
Patterson said the instating of the cover charge coincided with additional security implemented starting Friday night, including use of metal detecting wands and an ID scanner. The program was designed to control the crowds on Beale, but the lawsuit claims the voucher system is unconstitutional because it’s a public street.
Lucille Catron, who operates a club inside of the Old Daisy Theatre on Beale, filed the lawsuit against the city of Memphis, Patterson, the Beale Street Merchants Association and the Downtown Tourism Development Authority. The program was first implemented in June 2016.
“All these mixed signals to our citizens of Memphis, it’s really not necessary when we can find another alternative to charging the citizens,” Catron said.
Catron, who is also the executive director of Beale Street Development Corporation, said she was saddened by the judge’s ruling but is hopeful the lawsuit will end differently.
“It’s hurting Memphis,” she said. “It’s hurting Beale Street.”
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