From the 901: Beale Street Blues

    South Main Street in Memphis with few tourists out and about. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)
    Beale Street in Memphis with few tourists out and about. (Photo: Karen Pulfer Focht)

    Bar owners are having it tough across the state but some are giving as good as they get.

    In both Memphis and Nashville, bar owners have resorted to legal action after leaders for their respective cities have closed them or limited crowd size.

    Monday, 16 bar owners in Memphis sued the city, citing “significant economic hardship” and alleging bars have been unfairly singled out. A group of bar owners in the downtown Nashville tourist district filed for a restraining order against Mayor John Cooper, Nashville Board of Health Director Dr. Michael Caldwell and the Metro Nashville Beer Board.

    A judge shot down the Nashville group’s request.

    Cooper, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris have cited bar activity as a source for the spread of COVID-19.

    “From coast to coast, new cases and hospitalizations are on a steep rise, and unfortunately, we’re seeing the same trends right here at home. As you can see in the chart below, six weeks ago our positivity rate was 5.6 percent,” Strickland wrote in his weekly newsletter Friday.  “This past week, that number had risen to 14.2 percent. If you’re wondering, that’s a 154 percent increase over a relatively short amount of time, and a very alarming trend.”

    Shelby County COVID-19 testing rates, July 9. (Source: Newsletter of Mayor Jim Strickland)
    Shelby County COVID-19 testing rates, July 9. (Source: Newsletter of Mayor Jim Strickland)

    Beale Street watering holes remain open as others have closed – albeit with less traffic than normal – as a state statute “exempts establishments located in the Beale Street Historic District from meeting any food sale percentages to obtain a full service restaurant license. “ (Source: Tennessee Alcoholic Beverage Commission.)

    Memphis photojournalist Karen Pulfer Focht ventured to downtown Memphis to shoot the normally hopping area and found South Main a virtual ghost street.