The Battle for Beale StreetJune 11, 2009 By: Bryan Bass
Control of Beale Street continues to be in flux in Memphis, Tenn. While the 10-year-and-counting investigation against management company Performa Entertainment Real Estate, which oversees the three-block entertainment district, is ongoing, one nightclub entrepreneur has set his sights on a 4,000-plus-square-foot shuttered corner that formerly housed the national franchise Pat O’Brien’s.
Curtis Givens, who operates Level II Nightclub, has submitted a proposal to bring Beale Street Liquid on Beale, an upscale urban entertainment venue. It would cater to the 26- to 36-year-old urban professional who enjoys multiple music formats, including blues, reggae and hip-hop. Givens’ representatives are adamant the club would fill a much-needed void and help increase guest traffic to the historic area.
It was a proposal Beale Street manager John Elkington of Performa has balked at, insinuating that a club playing hip-hop music would bring major safety concerns to the area, noting not so subtly, “If that guy takes over on Beale Street, we’re out of business.”
Elkington is on record saying Givens’ management of the now-defunct Premier Nightclub is an issue because the venue was plagued by violent incidents, but Givens countered that he has had success in various upscale venues without complaint and his team has learned from the past. The first battle occurred last week when Givens appeared in bankruptcy court to argue that the personal bankruptcy he filed last year wouldn’t conflict with his ability to make lease payments.
Additionally, Performa has brought a lawsuit against the City of Memphis and the Beale Street Merchants Association, targeting the city’s reclamation of nearby Handy Park. The reclaiming of the park is seen as the city’s first attempt to regain control of the area from Performa, which was granted a 52-year lease of the district by an interim mayor back in 1982.
None of this matters to Givens, though. He believes he can bring an upscale product to Beale Street, even if it involves hip-hop music. “We have put the proper steps in place to keep people safe. I want to invite Mr. Elkington out to my establishment, Level II. I want him to come from beginning to end and show him how a real nightclub is run."