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Columbus approves Sunday alcohol sales, extends bar hours


Neal Wagner



Extended weekday alcoholic beverage sale hours and Sunday liquor sales soon could be coming to Columbus, as the City Council Tuesday night agreed to send a petition on the matter to the Mississippi Tax Commission. 


The council agreed to mail the petition after Columbus Mayor Robert Smith voted in favor of the resolution to extend on-premises alcohol sales hours in the city. 


Smith was forced to vote after the council produced a 3-3 vote on the matter. Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor, Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart and Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin voted in favor of the resolution. Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens, Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box and Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem voted against. 


Although the City Council voted to extend the alcoholic beverage sales hours, the decision still must be approved by the Mississippi Tax Commission before it is enacted, noted City Attorney Jeff Turnage. 


If approved by the commission, the law would allow on-site alcohol sales in the city from 10 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. 


Currently, city ordinance allows local bars and restaurants to sell liquor and wine from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday. Although the city now allows on-site beer and light wine sales from 7 a.m. to midnight on Sundays, it does not allow Sunday wine and liquor sales. 


Although mayoral tiebreakers typically are uncommon, Smith said he had prepared to vote on the matter. 


"I knew when I woke up this morning that I would probably have to vote tonight," Smith said. "I listened to the pros and cons of the matter during the public input session last night, and I think it is in the best interest of the city, from a progressive and economic standpoint, for me to support this motion tonight." 


Tuesday''s vote came after a brief discussion, during which a few council members shared opinions on the extension. 


"It''s been a matter very near and dear to me," Gavin said. "I think the city needs to move forward in passing this if it wants to be more progressive." 


However, Box urged the council to seek other forms of boosting the city''s sales tax collections. 


"This is continually referred to as an economic issue, but I think there are other things that can be done," Box said. "We are frequently compared to Tupelo and Tuscaloosa, but neither of them allow alcohol sales on Sunday.  


"So to say that you won''t be able to get the Olive Gardens and the other big restaurant and hotel chains in Columbus without allowing Sunday liquor sales is wrong," Box added.  


Because the state tax commission must review the matter, city officials were unable to predict when the law could be finalized. 


"I imagine Jeff Turnage will mail the resolution to the tax commission within the next several days," said Columbus Chief Operations Office David Armstrong. "Then we will just kind of wait to hear back from them." 


In other business, the council: 


n Agreed to allot a total of $91,500 during the 2010 fiscal year to Columbus-Lowndes E-911. 


Although the council Aug. 24 voted to allot $40,000 to the E-911 department, city officials voted unanimously to budget an additional $51,500 for the department. 


Because E-911 is funded jointly by Columbus and Lowndes County, Lowndes County Administrator Ralph Billingsley urged the council to evenly split E-911''s projected expenses with the county. 


"We are asking the city to at least contribute 50 percent of 911''s projected budget," Billingsley said. "If there is a budget shortfall at 911 at the end of the year, I''m sure the county will cover that expense again." 


n Voted to form an ad-hoc committee to "assist in making the Public Works Department more accountable and efficient," according to Karriem. 


Karriem will join Box, Columbus Public Works Director Mike Pratt and City Engineer Kevin Stafford on the committee, which will meet regularly to discuss issues facing the city''s infrastructure, Karriem explained. 


The council voted 4-2 to form the committee. Mickens, Box, Karriem and Gavin voted in favor of the committee. Taylor and Stewart voted against. 


"I just want us to put like minds together to help make our wards and our city better," Karriem said. "There is more to this city than the Riverwalk and Main Street, and the Public Works Department needs to address the city''s deteriorating infrastructure." 


However, Smith urged the council to not become involved in the day-to-day operations of the department. 


"The council has no authority to directly manage any department heads," Smith said. "It''s not the council''s place to micro-manage city departments like that." 





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Reader Comments

Article Comment t commented at 9/2/2009 12:03:00 PM:

how about this ass backwards city quit spending so much damn money? How about wee learn from the mistakes big government has taught us? SAVE SAVE SAVE... look at the county they have saved their cash from Babtist and is going to build the city a new sportsplex. Columbus lets try to move industry into the old exsisting buildings that have been vacant for some years now! instead let them go to the county and not pay taxes for the next ten years? screwed up mayor nd city council!


Article Comment bear commented at 9/3/2009 5:55:00 PM:

Have you seen the mayor and city council?......
I rest my case.


Article Comment marie commented at 9/4/2009 2:29:00 PM:

I agree. As I have realized Columbus legislature does little to put its tax payers money back into the city and the people. I say it all goes back to the politicians. Though, I know there are some good politicians out there, I still know they are widely corrupt. Also, having been raised in Columbus, I have seen a lot of changes, though, why has nothing been done to build in all the sites where trees have been cut such as on hwy 45 and the hospital zone area? My observation concludes no one wants to bring business to Columbus because businesses know that the local or state government for that matter will not "have their backs." You all just let Columbus get ugly and ragedy and you just don't care. So many people want to leave because it has grown down. Seriously, there is even less for a senior citizen to do in what you call this "great town."


Article Comment steel commented at 9/4/2009 6:15:00 PM:

Extended alcohol sales. Failure to make Columbus a non-smoking community. Seems like as usual the leadership in Columbus has our safety and well being in mind again. Bigger restaurants fail to come to Columbus not because of the lack of alcohol sales. I've managed big restuarants in Nashville and Tuscaloosa. They don't come because there is simply not enough traffic on a consistent basis to justify the costs. Dream on if you ever think Columbus will have an Olive Garden or Outback. It won't happen. Support your local establishments so that they will stay here. Alcohol sales will simply mean more accidents and cost the city more to patrol. Banning smoking will get more families into the restaurants which will fuel the economy. Get real.


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