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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Board hears citizens’ comments on alcohol ordinance

At its meeting Tuesday, the Starkville Board of Aldermen hosted a public hearing regarding changes to the city’s alcohol ordinance.
Currently, Ordinance 2009-06 states alcohol cannot be sold within a 250-foot radius from a school, church or funeral home. 
The proposed amendment adapts the minimum Mississippi statutes, which allows alcohol to be sold within 100 feet. 
Also, the current alcohol content in beer would be raised from five to eight percent and the hours of sale for alcohol would be extended from 12 to 1 a.m.
Three people stood at the podium during the meeting to say they are against the amendment. The first to speak was Marnita Henderson.
“I am just requesting that you respect the churches, the schools and the funeral homes by not decreasing the distance from where you can have alcohol sales,” Henderson said.
Next, Jerry Jefferson of Ward 2 shared his concerns. He said he does not care about raising the percentage of the alcohol or changing the hours, but he wants to leave the church sacred.
“Why do we have to interfere with the church? The churches are holy and it’s a place of worship,” Jefferson said. “I think we should leave the ordinance. If we do anything, we should have the ordinance go further away from the house of God.”
Michelle Jones of Ward 1 was the first to speak in favor of the amendment. She said when she moved to Starkville in 1998 there was virtually no nightlife.
“You could drive crisscross across downtown after 5 o’clock because there wasn’t a nightlife,” she said. “It took a very brave man who was an ordained deacon in the Baptist church who said, ‘We’ve got to bring restaurants to our downtown and to do that they have to have a license to serve alcohol. And, to do that we’ve got to figure out how to work with our houses of worship to make these things coexist.’ Because of what he did years ago, and what members of the board did, we have a vibrant downtown.”

Jones said the churches should not control the redevelopment of the city.

Jay Yates spoke on behalf of the Golden Triangle Restaurant Association in support of the changes. He said the organization’s decision is based on the fact the new ordinance would help the economy and create more jobs.

Rosa Dalomba, owner and manager of downtown business Pop Porium, said she has lost $20,000 worth of business due to her shop not being able to book parties that include the sale of alcohol.

“People are looking to book venues,” Dalomba said. “We’ve hosted birthday parties and graduations, but as much as we’ve hosted, we’ve lost even more by not hosting. As soon as people ask us about these events, as soon as I tell them we can’t sell any alcohol, beer or wine, they don’t want to book.”

Dolamba described the current alcohol law as “outdated.” Then, she shared a personal story of how she was hit by a car with a drunk driver 13 years ago.

“That’s something I had to think about when I asked myself, ‘Well, am I for this law or am I against it?’ she asked.

Dalomba said Starkville’s variety of late-night transportation services like Uber and other cab companies helped her decide to agree with the amendment.

After the citizens and business owners spoke, Alderman David Little said the revision of the ordinance would be for the “common good” of the people.

However, Vice Mayor Roy Perkins did not agree. Although he is holding his comments for the Sept. 19 Board of Aldermen meeting, when a second public hearing will be held, Perkins said the community is not defined by its alcohol sales.

“I’m not going to get tempted into this miniature discussion tonight, and we’ll just wait until (the next meeting),” Perkins said. “It’s more than beer and whiskey in this community. We’ll finish this conversation at our next meeting.”

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The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University
Board hears citizens’ comments on alcohol ordinance