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August 10, 2017 10:30:56 AM
Starkville aldermen could soon hold hearings on easing local restrictions on alcohol sales that will bring them in line with state statutes.
Mayor Lynn Spruill confirmed the board will broach the topic at Friday's work session and could schedule at least two future public hearings on the matter Tuesday.
The proposed changes, which were brought to the city by the Starkville Main Street Association Board, would reduce the distance from churches that areas zoned for commercial use are allowed to sell alcohol by the drink from 250 feet to 100 feet, allow businesses to sell beer with 8-percent alcohol content and allow restaurants and bars to sell alcohol up to 1 a.m. each day of the week.
Currently, Starkville's bars and restaurants must conclude alcohol sales at midnight Tuesdays through Fridays when counting Monday through Thursday as the official day sales began; Saturdays and Sundays at 1 a.m. when sales began Friday and Saturday; Sundays again at 10 p.m. when sales began that day; and 1 a.m. the day after a Mississippi State University home football game falls on a weekday.
The amendment allowing for 8-percent beer sales is seen as a clerical change, as state lawmakers allowed for their sale and consumption with 2012 legislation. Currently, Starkville's ordinances cap beer at a 5-percent alcohol content.
"New retail businesses and restaurants will be interested in our community with these progressive and forward-thinking opportunities allowed through passage of the proper ordinances," wrote SMSA Board Chairman Michelle Jones in an Aug. 3 letter to the city. "We support the growth and progress of current and future local businesses. (SMSA) ... supports the preservation, growth and vitality of downtown Starkville, and we believe this change will further propel our community as the best college town in Mississippi."
The city's working policy on changes to its code calls for two public hearings to be held before laws are amended. If aldermen schedule two public hearings on each of the board meetings following Tuesday's gathering, aldermen could hold those input-gathering sessions on Sept. 5 and 19 and approve the changes after the final hearing.
If approved, the ordinance change could go into effect in October after a 30-day wait.
"It's just time to go 1 a.m. across the board," said Veranda owner and chef Jay Yates, who also leads the Golden Triangle Restaurant Association. "The city is growing and there is more nightlife now. Our leaders say they want to be business friendly, so let's go across the board (with the time adjustment). You see a lot of 1s and 2s across Mississippi already. From a community standpoint, it's just time to do it."
Aldermen were set to discuss a similar reduction in the laws governing distance of sales by the drink in 2014, but the agenda item was pulled before a meeting and never brought up again last term.
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins, who previously opposed the distance reduction last term and the effort allowing Sunday alcohol sales, said he again will vote against the matter if it comes before aldermen.
"Having establishments that sell alcohol, beer, whiskey or wine in such close proximity to the church is frowned upon by God. As a result, I am compelled by my religious and Christian beliefs to respectfully oppose said measure," Perkins said.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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