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What's New in Memphis for Meeting and Event Planners

Former editor-in-chief of Connect and current head of content and marketing at The N2 Company Stephanie Davis Smith tells all about the city's growth into a meetings mecca.

What's New in Memphis for Meeting and Event Planners
Beck & Call is currently the city’s only riverfront rooftop bar, and it's located at the Hyatt Centric Beale Street.
Photo: Courtesy of Hyatt Centric Beale Street

The first time I ever heard “Beale Street Blues” by Louis Armstrong was with the windows down, sunglasses on, driving across the Mississippi Delta on my way to Memphis. Recorded in 1954, the song is part of the brilliant “Memphis or Bust” Spotify playlist made by Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis. “Guitar Man” by Elvis Presley, “Memphis Beat” by Jerry Lee Lewis, and “Memphis Streets” by Neil Diamond are only a few of the 83 songs listed that will put any attendee in the right frame of mind for the journey to a corporate conference at this new hotel. 

I hadn’t been to Memphis since I was a kid. I had heard the city was bustling and booming—construction was happening everywhere to attract meetings and events. The rumors are true.

The Hyatt Centric Beale Street Memphis was one of the first signs of progress for the meetings industry. It opened in the spring of 2021 with 227 guest rooms and suites. It was the first hotel on Memphis’ famed Beale Street. A block away from The Orpheum, where Vaudeville and Duke Ellington once ruled. Courting corporate travelers and events, the property offers more than 9,000 square feet of meeting space in a converted, historic 1879 William C. Ellis and Sons Ironworks and Machine Shop building.

What's New in Memphis for Meeting and Event PlannersThe Foundry ballroom at the Hyatt Centric Beale Street offers 4,450 square feet of space and can hold up to 250 banquet style and 450 reception style.Photo: Courtesy of Hyatt Centric Beale Street

The developers were careful to keep all the history, so attendees could have exposed brick walls, old machine works, loading dock-sized windows, and original wood beams as the backdrop to any successful meeting. Its Foundry ballroom is especially exquisite with 4,450 square feet of space that can hold up to 250 banquet style and 450 reception style. That ballroom has access to a 3,500-square-foot event lawn overlooking the property’s infinity pool. Think 120 people for a banquet outdoors or 200 for a reception. 

Hyatt Centric Beale Street was also the first hotel to offer groups riverfront venues for dining and entertaining. CIMAS is a high-end modern Mexican concept with floor-to-ceiling windows on the first floor. It’s sure to impress any corporate brass or incentive winners. Beck & Call is a whisky bar at the top of the hotel that overlooks the M Street bridge, which can have an impressive, customizable light show in the colors of your corporate group. It’s currently the city’s only riverfront rooftop bar—and it’s only one piece of the big development puzzle happening all around downtown Memphis.  

A few blocks away is Old Dominick Distillery. The hotel has a relationship with the events team and can arrange witty, history-filled whiskey tours. Old Dominick can host up to 150 guests for events upstairs and on its outdoor rooftop, which is lit up by a retro distillery sign. But the best part about both the hotel and the distillery? It’s walking distance to Beale Street. Old Louis Armstrong knew what he was talking about when he sang “If Beale Street could talk, if Beale Street could talk…” It is a vibrant smattering of barbecue joints, old-timey soda shops, kitschy bars, and live music spots. It’s all lit up like a Christmas tree, even during the daytime. The heart of the action is also only two blocks from the hotel. 

What's New in Memphis for Meeting and Event PlannersThe Caption By Hyatt Beale Street Memphis, opening this summer, offers 136 rooms and is aimed more at a lifestyle traveler.Photo: Courtesy of Hyatt Centric Beale Street

In more good news for meetings and events, the Hyatt Centric has a sister property opening in summer 2022, and it’s another first. It will be the first Caption by Hyatt Hotel anywhere in the world with international editions soon to follow. Both are part of plans for a big room footprint to draw larger meetings to the area. The Caption By Hyatt Beale Street Memphis has 136 rooms and is aimed more at a lifestyle traveler. A commitment to sustainability and upcycling will be unique to the hotel, and any corporate planner with that at the forefront of their planning mission will be happy to see zero single-use plastics, hydration stations on every floor, mobile key entry, and more in this vein. 

Close to this new compound of hotels—more on this development to come—are awesome offsite excursions for corporate attendees. Grab a breakfast at The Arcade, see the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, tour Sun Studio, pile some pulled pork onto your plate at Central BBQ, head out to Graceland, or grab a beer or throw an offsite party at Grind City Brewery. The Southern hospitality is warm everywhere. 

What's New in Memphis for Meeting and Event PlannersMemphis' Renasant Convention Center recently underwent a $200 million, top-to-bottom renovation.Photo: Creation Studios

Corporate event planners who have been to the city before will be happy to discover the once dreary Renasant Convention Center has also been completely overhauled and is only a short distance away from both hotels for larger association or corporate events. It recently underwent a $200 million, top-to-bottom renovation. It now has a column-free, 118,000-square-foot main exhibit hall, a new exterior concourse and pre-function space, as well as 46 breakout rooms, among other bells and whistles.

Up and down the streets of Memphis, there are cranes at work.   

In “Beale Street Blues,” Armstrong famously belted out the lyrics: “I'd rather be there than anyplace I know. Yes, I'd rather be here, than anyplace I know." The old gravely-voiced crooner was onto something. 

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