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Plans have changed: Washington Street to remain open this weekend

Vicksburg residents hoping to enjoy a Bourbon Street-type experience in Vicksburg this weekend will have to wait.

Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said plans to close off a section of Washington Street for the Labor Day weekend have changed and Washington Street will remain open throughout the Labor Day weekend.

Earlier in the week, Flaggs had said the city would try closing off portions of Washington Street to vehicles between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday over the two weekends. The move would allow restaurants and businesses on Washington Street, between Clay Street and South Street, to use the sidewalks and even the street for expanded food and beverage services.

But on Wednesday Flaggs said the plan would be put off a week, giving the city more time to properly advertise the street closures and give residents and businesses in the area additional time to prepare. Instead, the city will close the streets off each evening beginning Thursday, Sept. 10.

Flaggs said Wednesday city officials were concerned visitors coming to Vicksburg for the weekend would not be aware of the plans to close off a section of Washington Street.

“We’re going to do it next week when we’ll have the opportunity to advertise and put signage up and to market the parking garages and across the street parking available,” he said.

Flaggs said, however, Cocktails 101, the Daiquiri Hub and the Cottonwood Public House will be allowed to set up outdoor tables in the parking areas in front of their businesses along Washington Street. “We’re going to put barricades in front of their storefronts,” he said.

The board adopted the plan Wednesday. Before the vote, developer Daryl Hollingsworth raised concerns about safety during the periods the street would be barricaded.

“I don’t understand how you’re going to police this,” he said. “I don’t understand how the first responders are going to respond (if the street is blocked) to life-threatening situations and how are they going to get through the chaos to get to someone.”

Hollingsworth questioned whether there would be sufficient business downtown to support the board’s plan.

“We believe that we can make downtown work as walking, pedestrian-only from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” Flaggs said.

In October 2017, the board 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 drink.

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

On Aug. 3, Flaggs discussed closing portions of downtown to allow businesses in the city’s leisure and recreation district to expand outdoor seating and entertainment areas. At the same time, the board authorized City Attorney Nancy Thomas to prepare a letter to the Department of Revenue supporting the sidewalk tables at restaurants for the sale of alcoholic beverages inside the leisure district.

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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