Vicksburg officials nail down alcohol laws, to vote Monday|[03/08/08]

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 8, 2008

No more iced tubs of beer at the cash registers of convenience stores.

Vicksburg officials hammered out details Friday and decided on what Mayor Laurence Leyens called “a good start” to tackling crime as it relates to late-night drinking.

“We just need to get something on the books,” he said.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

Leyens and Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Sid Beauman will vote Monday on a string of changes in the city’s current code of ordinances that deal with alcohol. The changes include limiting the hours convenience and grocery stores sell beer or light wine, regulating brown-bagging and prohibiting coolers that display single beers in convenience stores. The ordinance will also prohibit any person under the age of 21 from entering a place where alcohol is served.

Officials have taken recommendations from Police Chief Tommy Moffett and Deputy Chief Richard O’Bannon, who, earlier this month, provided 2007 statistics that point to late-night drinking as a factor in crimes — particularly DUIs and homicides.

Discussions on how to limit late-night drinking have been going on at City Hall since last month. City Attorney Nancy Thomas has been researching other Mississippi cities, as well as state alcohol laws, to determine what changes would best suit Vicksburg. After meeting with two convenience store owners last week, Leyens decided it would be best to scale back what was originally proposed. The owners voiced concerns of their beer business being taken into the county, where stores will not be affected by the changes.

“It’s an anti-business initiative that’s not going to change the outcomes,” he said of an earlier proposal that included prohibiting any sale of single beers and not allowing any beer sales on Sunday. “I don’t want to hurt commerce.”

Although the board would like to see more changes down the road, they decided to require all businesses that sell beer and light wine to discontinue sales at 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday. Under current city ordinances, the hours stores sell beer are not regulated. Bars, however, under an already established ordinance are required to stop serving at 2 a.m. across the board. Leyens said, for now, he’d like to have the same rules apply at the stores.

None of the changes would apply to casinos and bars with resort status, which most watering holes along Washington Street downtown, already have. American Legion post and other fraternal groups would also be untouched because they adhere to their own set of rules under the state. Thomas said bars that operate on ABC permits from the Mississippi State Tax Commission will not be affected by the changes.

Vicksburg already has myriad controls, including an open container ordinance that bans all outdoor drinking. To beef it up, the city will also ban ice tubs that offer single beers of convenience stores. Single sales will be allow if the beer is kept in a “mechanical refrigeration unit.”

Special changes have been made to deal with Anderson’s Cafe, the last remaining neighborhood bar that, along with about five other businesses, was allowed to extend hours to 2 a.m. in 2004. Complaints from neighbors and an increase in crime has called for the city to require the bar to close its doors at 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday under the new ordinance. The club at First North Street has been identified by police as a trouble spot.

“It used to be a place where the same old guys would go. … Now, you have young guys doping and shooting. In my opinion, it’s a community atrocity,” said North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield. “They leave us no option — we have to act rather than react.”

Capping off the hours will help with the problem, Moffett indicated.

“It’s a watering hole, but if there’s no water, there’s no reason for them to be there,” he said.

The board will vote on the changes to the alcohol ordinance at a regular board meeting at 10 a.m. Monday.