City’s new beer rules brew confusion|[03/13/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 13, 2008

New restrictions on beer and light wine sales in Vicksburg, which go into effect April 10, have drawn praise and criticism among city civil servants, retailers and citizens — and some confusion.

Mayor Laurence Leyens said he received multiple calls before Monday’s Mayor and Board of Alderman meeting, at which the new regulations were approved. Some of those calls came from parents wanting to know if they could no longer take children with them to restaurants that serve alcohol. Likewise, some high school students questioned the new rules.

“Some kids are concerned about not being able to go to certain restaurants. You can still go there,” Leyens assured during Monday’s meeting. “Just don’t be in the bar, or you will potentially get arrested there.”

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Most bars and restaurants downtown on Washington Street have resort status under state law, and therefore are exempt from the new laws. The same is true for casinos.

Leyens also said some merchants questioned why the board would ban selling single cans or bottles of beer from ice chests or coolers, but still allow single beers to be sold from refrigeration units.

“The concern was you’re almost pushing a spontaneous purchase of alcohol and encouraging drinking and driving,” Leyens said of the beer bins, many of which are located near cash registers. “We felt like it could provide a better image for our community and people would be less likely to drink and drive.”

Alderman Sid Beauman also wanted to clarify at the meeting the new rules regarding brown-bagging.

“Brown-bagging is not getting a beer, putting it in a brown bag and drinking it on the street — that’s always been illegal,” he said. “You cannot consume alcohol on the street.”

Under the city’s open container ordinance, usually waived for such events as Riverfest, any public consumption of alcohol has been illegal for years.

Police Chief Tommy Moffett said he is going to speak with local merchants to ensure they understand another new beer and light wine regulation that has not received as much attention as others.

“The new ordinance states you’re not supposed to sell alcohol to anyone who is obviously drunk,” he explained. “I plan to talk to liquor stores and convenience stores to get everyone to understand it is illegal to sell alcohol to people who have already had too much. We need businesses to get on the same page and be proactive about these new laws.”

Violation of the new laws carries a fine of up to $1,000 and 90 days of jail time.View copy of the OrdinanceNew beer sales rulesThe following changes have been made to the laws governing alcohol sales in Vicksburg. The new laws do not apply to casinos or bars with resort status.

Grocers and convenience stores may not sell beer and light wine between the hours of 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m. on Sunday.

People younger than 21 may not enter businesses serving beer or light wine.

Grocers and convenience stores may not sell single beers or light wine from ice tubs or similar containers, other than a mechanical refrigeration unit.

Brown-bagging, the act of taking beer, light wine or alcohol into a bar or business, is illegal.

Neighborhood bars or clubs within a residential zone must close by 10 p.m. Monday through Sunday, and not reopen until 7 a.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. on Sunday.Previous Related Stories

02/23/08 – Officials considering ordinance changes to cut crime03/01/08 – Stores seen as key to cut beer-crime ties03/08/08 – Vicksburg officials nail down alcohol laws, to vote Monday03/11/08 – City limits beer sales in stores, bars