COVID-19 puts a damper on Beale Street New Year’s Eve celebration

Limited crowds, no live music for Beale Street

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - No crowds. No live music. No dancing. The biggest party of the year on Beale Street won’t be so big this New Year’s Eve, thanks to COVID-19.

All restaurants and bars in Memphis and Shelby County must follow the latest health directive from the Shelby County Health Department. And just like in the movie “Footloose,” there’s no dancing allowed. Party or no party, business owners and revelers are ready to tell 2020 good riddance.

“At 10 o’clock tomorrow night, we’re celebrating the end of 2020,” said Jay Wells, manager of Silky O’Sullivan’s.

Wells has worked on Beale for more than two decades and been witness to all those prior New Year’s Eve celebrations. This one, he admits, will be different than any other. But Wells is ready to kick 2020 to the curb.

“We’re gonna be open,” he said. “We’re gonna be partying, you know, as much as the guidelines will allow.”

Beale Street is usually the place to be in Memphis on New Year’s Eve. Crowds. Confetti. The guitar drop, or more recently, the raising of the disco ball when the clock strikes midnight.

But this year, as the official Beale Street website says: “COVID-19 has wrecked those plans.”

Partygoers who do show up, won’t ring in the New Year at midnight.

“Oh no, silly girl,” Wells said. “I’m afraid we’re gonna have to ring in the New Year at 10 o’clock.”

Restrictions from the Shelby County Health Department require restaurants to close at 10 p.m., limit capacity to 25% and ban dancing.

.And as Heather Stockhammer and Scott Halcomb, visiting from Daytona, Florida just found out, there won’t be any live music at clubs along the most famous tourist destination in Tennessee.

“We didn’t realize how many places were closed until we were driving in today, and about an hour away I started looking at the clubs and I’m like, ‘they’re not open. They’re not open. They’re not open.’ But we’re here so we’re gonna make the best of it,” said Stockhammer.

“We’ve had a good time,” said Halcomb. “Despite the lack of crowds and the weather, it’s been a good time.”

It will be a New Year’s Eve unlike any seen before on Beale Street, with COVID-19 the auld acquaintance that should be forgot.

“It’s like the old saying, any day above the ground is a good day,” said Wells. “Every day we’re not closed is a good day. It could be so much worse. It really could.”

Memphis and Shelby County health leaders advise you to stay home on New Year’s Eve. If you do go out, masks are required when in public.

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