Ordinance on beer separate from liquor

Published 7:00 pm Sunday, May 19, 2013

Were alcohol sales to become legalized in Brookhaven, one thing that won’t necessarily change is the city’s current beer ordinance.

An ordinance governing liquor sales could be adopted without necessarily requiring any change in the current beer ordinance, said Joe Fernald, the city’s attorney.

Beer and what’s considered alcoholic beverages are regulated separately in Mississippi.

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If voters legalize alcohol sales during a June 4 referendum, aldermen will have a choice of installing an ordinance allowing liquor stores or an ordinance restricting alcohol sales to by-the-glass in restaurants.

However, the city attorney left open the possibility that revisions to the beer ordinance might be needed.

“Anything we could do to make it clearer to the public would be a positive for the public,” he said. “We’d have to look at how we do it all to make it fair.”

Several sitting aldermen, including Ward Five’s D.W. Maxwell and Ward Six’s David Phillips, have in past city board meetings discussed a willingness to update the city’s current beer ordinance.

A provision that’s been particularly targeted for criticism requires most restaurants to be in business a year before a beer permit may be issued. Nationally franchised chains are exempt from this requirement, however.

Phillips has repeatedly characterized this provision as providing an unfair competitive advantage to national chains.

Exemptions to that provision have become common. Recently, the board waived the one-year requirement for Mike Mascagni, owner of Brookhaven’s newest restaurant, Pasta Junction.

At its May 7 meeting, the board approved Balwinder Singh’s application to sell packaged beer at a quick stop despite initial questions about whether he had the appropriate number of consenting signatures as required.

“We’re going to have to do something about this,” Maxwell said in that meeting of the city’s requirements to sell beer.