The proposed single-beer sale ban in Downtown Memphis

I’ve been so busy blogging the Best of Memphis stuff the past day that I’ve ignored a top Downtown news story – there’s a proposed ban on the sale of single-serve beers Downtown.  The affected area would be from Mill to Vance, so it would include Uptown and the core but not South Main.  Beale Street would be excluded, as would sales for on-site consumption.

The reason for the proposed ordinance has to do with the behavior of aggressive panhandlers Downtown.  They’ve been known to panhandle until they get enough to afford a tall-boy can or quart bottle of beer, then they go to Jack’s and buy one.  Then they hang out in public areas, especially Court Square, consuming their purchases, where they proceed to loudly argue with other panhandlers, intimidate passersby, use profanity, urinate in public, etc.  Cutting off the beer sales will cut off the fuel to their bad behavior, and will give them less reason to want to hang out Downtown all day.

I see both sides of this.  On the one hand, the aggressive panhandlers are a big problem, and cutting off their beer is a big step toward cleaning up Downtown.  I have no doubt it will help a lot.  We’ve already had a major win this past month with the police camera that has been installed in Court Square, complete with blue lights.  I didn’t get to go to the CCC’s Safety Task Force meeting yesterday, but I’ve been told that it was said that the camera is a huge success – the panhandlers and vagrants who hang out at Court Square have either left the park or have been on their best behavior.  The colonel who commands the Downtown precinct said he’s been thrilled lately to pass by and see citizens enjoying the park eating lunch outside, free from harassment.  That camera makes Court Square undesirable for the bums, and the ban of single beer sales will make it even less so.

On the other hand, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in Jack’s at 8 or 9 in the morning buying my wake-up Mountain Dew, when someone who had just gotten off third shift stopped in for a single beer on his way home.  I hate it that the workin’ man will no longer be able to get his go-home beer after a long day.  It’s easy for us to sit on our rooftops drinking our martinis and cosmos and whatever, and forget that the workin’ man is part of Downtown too.  It’s like punishing everyone for the bad actions of a few.  It’s easy for us to sit in the Saucer and watch TV and look at the girls and run up $25 bar tabs and overlook the fact that, that 24 oz. can of beer is to the workin’ man what our time at the Saucer is to us (or Bardog, Silly Goose or insert your favorite bar’s name here).

I don’t know… I won’t be sorry if the ordinance passes, because we’re so close to cleaning up the problems Downtown with aggressive panhandling, and this is a major step.  I can’t say I’m a hundred percent in favor of it though.

Another thing – even if we ban single-serve beer sales, we still have that blasted liquor stores on Madison near Main (CeCe’s) that caters to bums with sales of 50 ml bottles of cheap liquor, as well as bum wines like Wild Irish Rose.  Until something is done about that store, there will still be problems with public drinking in the Downtown core.

Anyway, that’s my take on it.  I doubt it’s exactly what the other people leading the fight against aggressive panhandling hoped I’d say, but the day I stop shooting straight is the day I give up this blog.