Beale Street Business Owner Sues Downtown Memphis Commission Over Contract Termination

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Another battle is brewing on Beale Street. This time a club owner is suing the Downtown Memphis Commission. Race and retaliation are at the center of the claims.

The lawsuit claims the Commission canceled a contract with the owner of Lew’s Blue Note on Beale, after he became vocal about how minorities businesses are treated on Beale Street.

“It's not fair, now you wanna push me out,” says Lewis Winston. Since 2014, Winston has owned the restaurant and managed the parking lot adjacent to the popular street for the Downtown Memphis Commission.

According to the lawsuit, on April 27th, Winston was sent a letter saying his contract for the lot was officially terminated, three years into the five-year contract.

The reason given: Winston's company wasn't providing a "high quality job "managing the lot.

“If I can run a restaurant, don't tell me I can't run a parking lot,” says Winston.

Winston and his supporters say politics play a big part in the termination.

“I just think the contract should be followed. Why they doing it, is there an ulterior motive? I don't know,” says Beale Street Business Owner James Clark.

Winston has been vocal about how he says minority businesses are treated, and about his opposition to the Beale Street Bucks program; the program that charges visitors to the street on Saturday night.

Wilson says the trouble began after testifying in court in relation to a lawsuit over Beale Street Bucks.

“They started harassing me down here on the street,” says Winston.

Winston is asking a judge to intervene and stop the Commission from terminating the contract until the case can be heard in court.

The Downtown Memphis Commission released this statement in response to the lawsuit:

“We are aware of the lawsuit and do not comment on pending litigation. The parking lot management agreement entered into in 2014 with All Win was terminated due to failure to fulfill terms of the agreement. Our priority is providing accessible, high-quality parking options for Beale Street patrons. All actions taken were in keeping with the terms of our agreement and in pursuit of our goal to provide the best service for patrons.”

--Terence Patterson, President & CEO of Downtown Memphis Commission


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