May 2, 2014 4:22:41 PM
Starkville aldermen are expected to discuss scheduling public hearings on lowering the city's alcohol sales restrictions Tuesday, a move that could allow on-premises sales and consumption limits to more businesses.
Currently, businesses cannot sell beer or light wine if it is located within 250 feet of the nearest point of any church, school, child care facility or funeral home. That distance is measured with a straight line, rather than routes of pedestrian travel.
The city proposes amending the rule to follow state statute, Miss. Code Ann. 67-1-51(3), which allows for sales beyond 100 feet of the premises, provided they are both zoned either commercial or industrial.
Churches and funeral homes may also waive the distance requirements, the proposal states.
Starkville Main Street Association and Convention and Visitors Bureau boards both support the potential change, Greater Starkville Development Partnership CEO Jennifer Gregory said.
Due to the physical placement of churches and businesses in the Main Street, Russell Street and Miss. Highway 182 corridors, the potential change could unlock new retail opportunities, thereby increasing Starkville's sales tax and 2 percent food and beverage tax receipts as the city continues branding itself as a restaurant destination for out-of-town diners.
"We look at this as an economic development issue because the need for this comes from the growing requests and inquiries from restaurants about locating downtown. We're not talking about nightclubs; we're talking traditional restaurants who want to locate to Starkville," Gregory said. "Our restaurants are the downtown anchors and provide huge sales tax benefits. Right now, there are specific restaurants and developments looking to come here and cannot because there's no more available space because of the 250-foot rule. We have property owners holding onto parcels ideal for restaurants, but they have to have this legislation. People are sacrificing their own money while waiting.
"When you begin to inventory the schools, day cares and churches - not just the big ones, but the small, community centers located in our business corridors - it's a lot of locations," she added. "The change isn't radical - it takes us, in an economic development mindset, to where the rest of the state is."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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