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Board broaches liquor vote subject

Mentioning restaurants and consumers lost to McComb, a Brookhaven alderman has highlighted the potential benefits of liquor sales within the city.

     Ward One Alderman Dorsey Cameron kick-started a discussion at Tuesday night’s city board meeting of a new state law allowing some cities in dry counties to hold liquor referendums.

     Cameron pointed out McComb’s ability to attract restaurants such as Ruby Tuesday and added that an Applebee’s is locating in McComb. The restaurants all sell alcohol.

     “When you go down there, you see several Lincoln County tags. I have counted as high as 10 or 12 tags,” Cameron said. “That’s revenue leaving the city.”

     Though Lincoln County is dry, a new state law that went into effect July 1 would allow county seats and cities of 5,000 people within a dry county to hold a citywide referendum on the sale of alcohol.

     Cameron was quick to point out he wasn’t directly advocating for such a referendum, only highlighting the competitive edge McComb has over Brookhaven.

     “I’m not saying say we do it,” Cameron said. “I’m just stirring the pot.”

     Cameron isn’t the first to eye the notion of liquor sales in Brookhaven, according to other city leaders.

     “It’s being talked about all over town,” said Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes.

     Mayor Les Bumgarner said he thought some city residents were preparing to more than talk about a referendum.

     “There’s people working on it,” Bumgarner said.

     City Attorney Joe Fernald underlined the point that any city resident may take action on such a referendum.

     Under the new law, SB 2497, a referendum on alcohol sales is to be held after a petition signed by 20 percent of “the duly qualified voters” is presented to city leaders. If the referendum then passes with a majority vote, city leaders shall then pass the proper ordinances governing the sale of liquor.

     The law allows aldermen to restrict alcohol to on-site restaurant sales or allow it to be sold at package stores.

     Prior to the new state law, liquor referendums had to be held countywide even though alcohol can only be sold within municipal boundaries in Mississippi.

     Tuesday’s discussion of liquor sales in the city comes after the board’s previous meeting in which Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell proposed loosening the city’s requirements for beer permits. Among other proposals, he suggested eliminating a requirement that beer permit applicants gather consenting signatures from surrounding property owners.

     Maxwell was absent at Tuesday’s meeting.

     In related business, the city board approved applications for a beer permit at Little Tokyo and Bo Bo restaurants. Difficulties with these permits had previously prompted Maxwell’s suggestion of retooling the city’s beer ordinance.

     Though the new location for the Bo Bo Chinese Buffet is less than 100 feet from a church, the board granted an exception to the distance requirement of the beer ordinance as the restaurant is within a major business district on Brookway Boulevard and a letter from the church stated no opinion on the matter.