‘Resort area’ status holds as legislation dies in House|[03/20/08]

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 20, 2008

Locations designated as qualified resort areas — untouched by Vicksburg’s newly adopted rules regulating the sale of local beer and light wine locally — will remain immune and not affected by a proposed Senate bill that would have allowed the state Tax Commission to revoke the status if certain criteria are not met within six months.

Senate Bill 2501, written by Sen. Briggs Hopson III, R-Vicksburg, cleared the Senate floor last week, but died in the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday, a move led, as pledged, by Rep. George Flaggs, D-Vicksburg.

The change would have allowed the commission to strip the resort status from buildings where businesses or occupants operate without on-premises permits or package retailer’s permits. The permits allow for the sale of alcohol and must be obtained through the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control or local municipalities, which have jurisdiction over the sale of beer and light wine only.

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

Under state law, qualified resort areas are defined as areas commonly accepted as places that attract tourists, vacationists and other transients because of historical, scenic or recreational facilities or attractions. Resort status must be granted by the commission.

In Vicksburg, 27 parcels, most of which are downtown, have resort status, meaning alcohol may be sold around the clock there, whereas other establishments are required by city law to close their doors by 2 a.m. daily. A set of new rules, voted on March 10 by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, will require Anderson’s Cafe, the last remaining of about five neighborhood bars in the city, to close at 10 p.m. It will also restrict the manner and the hours in which convenience and grocery stores are allowed to sell beer and light wine. Effective April 10, stores that sell beer may only do so between 7 and 2 a.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 11 and 2 a.m. on Sundays.

The ordinance has prompted, former Vicksburg resident Earnest McBride, under the auspices of his nonprofit the Vicksburg Alliance for Good Government, to organize a rally for noon Tuesday in front of City Hall. McBride is an editor of the Jackson Advocate newspaper.

Local officials have said they would like to see the ease of operating under resort status cease. The way it works is, once the state grants the status, the distinction applies to that building indefinitely, which, in effect, means businesses that move into buildings with the status automatically are allowed to reap the same benefits.

To apply for resort status, a business must already have a liquor license issued by the ABC. But, if a business operating on a beer and light wine permit, issued by municipalities, moves into a location with resort status, that business is automatically granted the same status.

Flaggs, however, has said stripping buildings of resort status would limit the taxes that come in through alcohol sales at the various businesses. He has also noted that the changes city officials have chosen to make regarding beer and light wine will also affect tax income.

The city moved forward with the plan, however, in a special-called board meeting Wednesday, where Aldermen Michael Mayfield and Sid Beauman corrected typographical errors made to the original ordinance. City Attorney Nancy Thomas said after the meeting that the changes didn’t affect any of the provision, which also makes it illegal for people under 21 to enter places where alcohol is served, unless otherwise permitted by state law, and limits the hours on brown-bagging to mirror the hours at stores.