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Cover charge returning to Beale Street for Memorial Day Weekend

Updated: May. 27, 2021 at 8:05 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Any and all visitors to historic Beale Street in Memphis will be required to pay a $5 security fee this weekend, renewing a cover charge that has been implemented in the past to help keep the street safer during busy times.

The Downtown Memphis Commission says there’s a no-capacity limit for crowds this weekend on Beale, but they say a cover charge does naturally thin the crowd and make it safer.

A cover charge has been used in the past and it is a controversial idea. This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for Memorial Day weekend, everyone will be charged a $5 security fee to enter the street’s entertainment district.

“It has proven to reduce the size of the crowds and enhance public safety, and so we’re doing that this weekend just based on the expectation for the crowd size,” said Paul Young, president & CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission.

The money collected will fund extra officers and security features on Beale.

Young says fees to enter Beale have been successful in the past in reducing crime and preventing dangerous stampedes. He says of 22 recorded stampedes on Beale, only one happened while a cover charge was in place.

“When you have over a certain amount of people on Beale Street, that safety declines,” Young said. “There are opportunities for stampedes, which aren’t safe for anyone.”

Prior cover charges for a public street and the Beale Street bucks program, which charged $10 for a $7 voucher in return, have been controversial in the past with critics calling it discriminatory and even racist.

“I certainly understand that feedback,” Young said. “What we’d like to take into consideration is that the safety of the people along this street is of the utmost importance and we know that it works to enhance safety.”

Young says no matter your views on the security fee, it’s a good sign economically that crowds and tourists are returning.

“It’s exciting to see that we’re on the backside of the pandemic and things are returning to a new form of normal,” Young said. “So we’re excited to see the crowds back downtown.”

Saturday night is also the Grizzlies’ playoff game, but fans going to the game will not be required to pay the security fee, although they may have to walk around Beale to avoid it.

Young says a security fee may be used again in the future during weekends with large crowds.

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