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Beale Street Tourism Authority could be on its way out

By Montee Lopez, Special to TSDMemphis.com

The Memphis City Council Tourism Committee unanimously voted Tuesday to get rid of the Beale Street Tourism Authority, whose job is to design and maintain the attractiveness of the Beale Street Entertainment District while also seeking proper management.

The Beale Street Tourism Authority (BSTA) hasn’t been around for very long. The 13-member board was created in 2015 during former Mayor A C Wharton Jr.’s tenure.

Councilman Martavius Jones (Super District 8, Position 3) introduced the resolution that would do away with the BSTA. The purposes for which the authority was created have been “substantially accomplished,” Jones said.

With the Tourism Committee vote, It would next take a majority vote of the full council to dissolve the BSTA. The council meets next on April 11. If there is a favorable vote, the City of Memphis would then need to file dissolution papers with the Tennessee Secretary of State.

Shards of conflict have been flying, with ongoing delays and assertions of prejudice and racism associated with the process of finding permanent management for the entertainment district. The Downtown Memphis Commission is serving as interim manager.

The most recent public debate about who should run the street has involved the Beale Street Tourism Authority, the Beale Street Merchants Association and an African-American-owned firm called 21 Beale St., which was the last entity remaining after the BSTA sifted through management proposals. The BSTA subsequently took the position that it didn’t have confidence in any of the would-be managers, including the 21 Beale St. group.

The BSTA’s lack-of-confidence position mirrored the stance of the Beale Street Merchants Association.

Ken Taylor, executive director of the Beale Street Merchants Association, chose not to comment about the association’s squabble with 21 Beale Street when The New Tri-State Defender asked him about it this week. Taylor did say he was happy about the Council Tourism Committee’s vote to do away with the authority.

“We’re looking for a swift resolution to find management for Beale Street very quickly,” Taylor said. “It affects our ability to get sponsorships, tenants, etc.”

Taylor said he had major faith in Terence Patterson, director of the Downtown Memphis Commission.

“Whether it’s the Beale Street Tourism Development Authority or the administration (of Mayor Jim Strickland), our number one focus is making sure we’re good stewards of Beale Street,” Patterson said. “So we are committed to doing that.”

The Tourism Committee meeting also drew Lucille Catron, owner of the Historic Daisy Theatre and executive director of the Beale Street Development Corporation. She called the dissolution of BSTA “needed and necessary.”

“We have too many entities that are on Beale that are not related to Beale Street,” said Catron, who added that she hoped the council would look into entities that she is convinced have too much of a hand in the decision-making process concerning the Beale Street district.

Several lawsuits involving the entertainment district are pending. They include the dis-pute over management of the district Beale Street and a challenge of the controversial Beale Street Bucks program, which amassed money by charging a $10 entry fee into the district. Beale Street Bucks was proposed as a security measure.

“If there was equity on Beale Street, there would be no need for the lawsuits,” Bernal E. Smith II, publisher and CEO of The New Tri-State Defender, said after the Tourism Committee meeting.

The Beale Street Tourism Authority had failed miserably in executing its purpose, said Smith, who added that he was worried about the BSTA’s treatment of African-Americans busi-nesses on Beale Street.

“They had two goals – two measures of success,” Smith said. “Neither one of them were accomplished.”

The New Tri-State Defender is located in the entertainment district at 203 Beale St.

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