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Extended alcohol sales at State Theatre discussed


David Miller



STARKVILLE -- If State Theatre owner Daniel Waide had his way, Starkville's nightlife scene would rival other college towns across the southeast.  


Waide asked the Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday to consider a supporting resolution to allow the bar and concert venue to extend its operating hours to 3 a.m. on weekends. 


Waide wants to extend the hours of his business to attract more noteworthy musical acts and avoid absorbing larger financial losses from having to pay more upfront money during bookings. Having two extra hours to serve alcohol would help cover losses. Additionally, bringing larger acts to Starkville will generate more revenue for hotels and other businesses because concertgoers would travel from other cities and states. 


Waide also said keeping his bar open two extra hours would generate 15 new positions -- five full-time -- at the bar.  


"When we have less risks, I wouldn't mind bringing more bands to Starkville," Waide said. "But it's about creating more jobs and tax revenue. The only way to realize revenue streams is to change it." 


State Theatre will apply to the State Tax Commission to extend its hours under its current resort status, which it gained in the early 1990s when it was the Statehouse Hotel. State Theatre, at 215 Main St., along with Hotel Chester, gained resort status to allow the service of alcohol because it was located within 750 feet of a religious facility.  


State Theatre currently operates and serves alcohol under the city's current ordinance, which allows bars to serve alcohol until 1 a.m. on the weekends and midnight on weeknights. Bars can also serve alcohol from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday. The board voted 4-3 in December 2009 to allow Sunday alcohol sales. 


Resort status, granted by the State Tax Commission, allows establishments in dry areas or in city limits to serve alcohol 24 hours a day. Establishments must have significant historical value or attract tourists to gain resort status. 


However, a city's governing body can petition to have the hours of any area with resort status fall in line with its normal alcohol sales times. 


Having the city's blessing would give Waide's request a significant boost. 


The board took no action on Waide's request, and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins criticized the need to extend the hours, which would set a precedent for other establishments to request changes to the current ordinance.  


Perkins also argued the dangers of extending hours, noting the strain it would put on police. 


David Mollendor, owner of neighboring Hotel Chester, said there's already a significant issue of controlling drunk bar patrons. 


"I have a long established trail of phone calls between me, 911 and the police under the current hours," Mollendor said.  


Waide said the impact of county bar Cowbells -- which also has resort status -- has on county revenue could be similar at State Theatre. Cowbells, though, has been criticized by Oktibbeha County Sheriff Dolph Bryan because of the level of drunk driving to and from the bar. 


Perkins told Waide that Starkville's appeal -- Mississippi State University -- was enough to attract visitors without extending bar hours. 


"If we stop selling alcohol, people will still come here," Perkins said. "We can have growth and economic development without extending hours. If I could, I would vote to repeal Sunday sales." 


In other news: 


n The board set separate work sessions to discuss redistricting of the city and the capital improvement project for 2012. The board will hold its redistricting work session on Oct. 25 and its capital improvements work session on Nov. 8. The board will meet with a consultant on Nov. 8 to finalize a prioritized list of equipment, street and infrastructure needs and discuss financing options. 


n The board voted 5-2 to waive the $15 fee the city charges businesses to hang banners on their property following Mississippi State University Student Association's request to hang homecoming advertising banners at 30-40 local businesses.  


n The board voted unanimously to set a public hearing on amending its subdivision construction ordinance to include modifications to street acceptance specifications. The city currently has a two-phase system that calls for developers to complete and dedicate roads to the city when the project is 85 percent complete. City Engineer Edward Kemp said the board should consider a one-phase plan that would allow developers to finish roads sooner to help secure the cost of asphalt. It would also help facilitate storm water drainage and lessen repairs while construction is taking place. A time for the public hearing will be announced at a later date.




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