City OKs alcohol outside in downtown district

Published 6:58 pm Monday, October 2, 2017

Beginning Nov. 2, people will be able to buy an alcoholic beverage at a club or restaurant and take it to the street.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen Monday approved an ordinance establishing a leisure and recreation district allowing customers to buy their favorite alcoholic beverage at a restaurant or club in an area known as the “Washington Street District” and take it with them when they leave, or sit at an outside table at the business to enjoy their libation.

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Under state law, the ordinance becomes effective after 30 days.

The district runs the length of Washington Street from the Klondyke, 100 North Washington St., south to Veto Street and including Mulberry Street and a section of Madison Street.

Besides the Klondyke, the district includes Rusty’s Riverfront Grill, Mousour’s at the Biscuit Company, 10 South, Roca, Jacques and Cocktails 101.

The district will be active from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday.

Mayor George Flaggs said Vicksburg Main Street has hired FSA Enterprises, a private security firm, to enforce the ordinance. According to the city’s accounting department, there is $15,000 in the Main Street budget for security.

Police Chief Milton Moore, who was involved in the discussions to hire the company, said after the meeting he was fine with hiring the firm, adding it will allow the department to add another officer to patrol the city.

The special district is a provision of the state’s alcohol beverage regulations that were passed during the 2016 session of the Legislature.

Vicksburg is one of 14 cities in the state allowed to have a “leisure and recreation district” in the city that allows people to walk out of a restaurant or bar carrying an open container in a designated part of the city as a way to attract tourism and more restaurants downtown.

Two of the cities, Clinton and Hattiesburg, established their districts earlier.

Downtown businessman and developer Darryl Hollingsworth opposed the move, saying he believed it would hurt downtown. Hollingsworth has developed several properties on Washington Street into residential/commercial buildings. He said he no longer owns Cocktails 101, which was formerly known as the Wine House.

“I think that this will kill the growth downtown and it will create a lot of problems,” he said.

He said Clinton just voted in its leisure district, and Hattiesburg has not grown as fast as Vicksburg.

Under the ordinance, people buying alcohol at a local business can leave the business with one beverage, provided it is in a 16-ounce plastic cup bearing the name and/or logo of the business. People will not be allowed to enter a licensed business with an alcoholic beverage, and alcoholic beverages will not be allowed in vehicles. Restaurants and clubs can decide whether to participate in the district, city attorney Nancy Thomas said.

She said the marked plastic cups will be the only type of open containers allowed under the ordinance, although there may be times when the city could allow other types of containers during special events like RiverFest.

“Due to the residential uses on Washington Street, the go cup privilege ends at 11 p.m.,” Thomas said. “We wanted to make certain that people will be able to sleep at night, and we don’t invite a lot of noise in the street.”

North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield said the main concern is enforcing the ordinance.

“I know they’re talking about security down there. I don’t know how well that’s going to turn out,” he said. “There should always be a concern about safety and order.

“It’s all about opening things up, giving people the opportunity; one thing I do want to say — if this thing does not work, we do have the authority to pull this at any given time, and that’s one thing I want make sure the people to be aware of if we get down there and they start cutting up, because when people get highly inebriated, meaning drunk, things start happening.”

Hopefully, Mayfield said, the ordinance will open up avenues to allow people to go downtown, enjoy a beverage and relax, drink responsibly and go home.

“This is not about people to just randomly walk up and down the street with liquor,” he said. “Remember, the end result comes back to us, because we have to put our signature on this.”

He asked Police Chief Milton Moore to “keep an eye on this,” and let the board know if the district is not working, “and we’ll know by the calls. All three of us are aware this can be good, but we just have to be careful in what we’re doing.”

South Ward Alderman Alex Monsour, a former state representative who was in the Legislature when the law passed, said it was reviewed and studied by the Legislature, adding, “We went across the state of Mississippi, we modeled it after people that are doing it the right way.

“We had a meeting here and the majority of the people in the room and the businesses were for it. We have taken every step. I’ve given my word, the mayor has given his word, Michael now has given his word. If it doesn’t work, we’ll yank it just as fast as we put it in.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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