Jim Dickinson got a lot of criticism a few years back for referring to Beale Street as a “city-owned liquor mall”. And now that Performa Entertainment, who managed the historic entertainment district since is re-birth in the early 1980’s, is out of the picture, Mayor Wharton, according to the Commercial Appeal, has put the option of selling Beale Street on the table.
Wharton says: “This is not the artificial river they ran through San Antonio. This is the real thing. Beale Street is not Bourbon Street. Beale Street is not Fifth Avenue. Beale Street is Beale Street.” I guess that depends on what you mean by “real” and your definition of Beale Street.
Joni Mitchell painted a memorable picture of the street at the depths of its decline, in her song “Furry Sings the Blues”. Many of us are old enough to remember the latter days of Beale, perhaps making the rounds of the pawn shops to choose our first guitar.
No matter how you feel about Beale Street: tourist trap, historical treasure, signature Memphis destination, or liquor mall, the bottom line is if the district is not profitable, it will go the way of the pyramid, Overton Square, and the plethora of empty and boarded up buildings in Downtown and around Memphis.
If the street is put up for sale, it’s going to be interesting to see what potential buyers come forward. Will the current merchants be interested in purchasing their spaces? It would be good for the street’s future to have locals with a vested interest in the street’s success. Or will the district be sold to an entertainment conglomerate like CKx Inc., parent company of Elvis Presley Enterprises? Or maybe Foreign investors?
- Walking in Memphis – Memphis, TN (travelpod.com)
- Letter: A grim scene on Beale Street (commercialappeal.com)
- Memphis can sell Beale Street entertainment district, Mayor Wharton suggests (commercialappeal.com)
- Margie Goldsmith: Visiting the Memphis Kings: Elvis and Dr. Martin Luther King (huffingtonpost.com)