Fed­eral rul­ing lets Beale Street Bucks cover charge re­turn to Down­town

The Commercial Appeal - - Local - JEN­NIFER PIGNOLET

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.”

Reach Jen­nifer Pignolet at jen­nifer.pignolet@com­mer­cialap­peal.com or on Twit­ter @JenPig­no­let.

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