Liquor flowing again after ABC’s two-week cork

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 5, 2003

[11/4/03]Vicksburg businesses that sell liquor have been in low spirits for about two weeks now, but that should change this week.

As of Monday afternoon, only one 750-milliliter bottle of Canadian Mist was left on the shelf at Far East Liquors, 3429 Halls Ferry Road. And some of the other top sellers were gone too.

“Just walk around and see the holes on the shelves,” said store owner Larry East, standing behind the counter.

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Mississippi’s regulatory agency responsible for liquor distribution in the state stopped shipping spirits to the more than 1,200 licensed businesses in the state on Oct. 17.

Initially, the reason for the shutdown was attributed to computer problems, but state Tax Commission Chairman Ed Buelow Jr. said the ABC had many reasons for the halt in distribution.

“It was a multitude of problems, from staffing problems, resignations, mass confusion to equipment failure,” Buelow said.

Restaurants, casinos, liquor stores and all other businesses that serve or sell alcohol in Mississippi must purchase it through Alcohol Beverage Control.

Today, the Tax Commission Web site showed 10 vacancies within the ABC. However, Buelow said he expected about 18,000 cases of liquor to be shipped out throughout the state soon.

Even with the liquor coming, some business owners still resent the two-week shutdown.

“I doubt very many liquor stores are happy with things,” East said. “But there’s nothing you can do about it.”

East won’t be expecting a shipment Wednesday. He said he had tried to fax his order since 8 a.m. to the ABC headquarters in Gluckstadt, and by mid-afternoon he was still receiving a busy signal.

“You’ve got over 1,200 people trying to do this,” he said.

Licensed businesses who placed orders between 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Monday should receive them today, Buelow said.

Bernard Theobald, owner of Theobald’s Frontier Package Store, 43 Fisher Ferry Road, had much better luck in placing his order. He said he started trying to place his fax at 8 a.m., and four minutes later his order of 105 cases of alcoholic beverages was sent.

Theobald said ABC and distributors informed him about the halt in shipping about four or five days before it took place. East said ABC didn’t contact him and he wouldn’t have known if distributors had not told him.

Theobald said he wasn’t happy with the stop in distribution, especially since it hit right before the beginning of the holidays. But he was happy to anticipate his large shipment today.

In nearby Delta, La., the Interstate convenience store sells liquor. Manager Hattie Vines said during the last two weeks she’s seen an increase in customers.

“The traffic has been pretty heavy,” she said.

Liquor is less expensive in Louisiana since it’s regulated less, Vines said. “The wholesalers set our prices instead of the ABC,” she said.

Bringing untaxed liquor into Mississippi is against the law, but no prosecutions have been reported.