Security consultant recommends Beale Street cover charge, other safety measures

Security consultant recommends Beale Street cover charge, other safety measures
Published: Aug. 15, 2018 at 8:01 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 15, 2018 at 10:10 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Charging people to get on Beale Street has been contentious since its inception, and it appears the discussions are not over.

Security consultant Peter Ashwin's final report on Beale Street crowd control is 85 pages with 24 key recommendations.

The most newsworthy among them:

  • Memphis Police Department, the Downtown Memphis Commission (DMC) and Memphis Fire Department set the crowd capacity for Beale Street at 20,000
  • The city close Beale Street, making it pedestrian only
  • The DMC and MPD revise entry design to Beale to reduce crowding at Second Street.

The report also includes a recommendation that council members consider a Beale Street admission fee once again, which they've previously voted to abolish.

"We would like to have people think about how to do that in a wise and smart way," Joellyn Sullivan, with Silky O'Sullivan's, said.

The report cites MPD statistics that show 30 percent of petty crime dropped when Beale Street Bucks was in operation.

Memphis Police Director Mike Rallings advocated last year for the fee to stay.

"It's the only thing that's worked," he said.

Since April of this year with no Beale Street cover charge in place, eight stampedes have been recorded on the street, according to the study commissioned by the Beale Street Task Force.

A stampede is defined as intense crowd movement resulting in a crush, jam, or trampling.

Four of the stampedes have originated in Handy Park, located at the intersection of Beale and Rufus Thomas Boulevard.

The DMC said as a result, they've closed bathrooms in the park on Saturday night.

"Multiple stalls just created an opportunity for activity that was not ideal," Jennifer Oswalt, president of the DMC, said.

The eight stampedes in 2018 make up more than years 2015, 2016, and 2017 combined.

Council members Tuesday delayed formally accepting the recommendations amid concern over the suggestion of a cover charge.

"We would just continue to talk with the city council and the stakeholders and bring that to them at a later date," Oswalt said.

Some council members balked at even debating a cover charge.

"It just seemed a bit polarized that you charged those fees on the night that mostly African-Americans visited Beale Street, and that's why the council curtailed charging on Saturday nights to get on Beale," City Councilwoman Jamita Swearengen said.

The item will be back up for discussion in executive session in two weeks..

The report also found increasing trends in gang-related incidents on Beale, and that Memorial Day weekend poses the most risk for dangerous events on Beale.

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