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By STEVEN NALLEY
State Theatre owner Daniel Waide made a presentation to the Starkville Board of Aldermen at its meeting Tuesday and requested support for the venue to extend its hours to 3 a.m. on weekends under its current resort status.
Title 35 of the Mississippi Administrative Code allows municipalities and counties to petition the state‚Äôs Alcoholic Beverage Control division to adjust hours of alcoholic beverage sales for resort areas within their borders. The code requires a certified copy of the governing body‚Äôs resolution to be packaged with such a petition, and Waide requested this resolution from the board Tuesday. The board did not take action on the request.
Waide said the State Theatre‚Äôs resort status dates back to 1994, when that property, together with the current Hotel Chester, obtained resort status to gain exemption from city rules preventing alcohol sales within a certain distance of nearby churches. Before Waide made his presentation, David Mollendor, owner of the Hotel Chester, said State Theatre‚Äôs current alcohol sale hours already cause problems for police. Longer hours, he said, would require extra police staff to handle more intoxicated State Theatre patrons.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm a night owl by necessity because I have to watch and protect the best interests of my customers,‚ÄĚ Mollendor said. ‚ÄúI can tell you, I have a long-established trail of phone calls between myself, the police department and 911 under the current hours.‚ÄĚ
Waide said he, too, would need extra staff for the extra hours, which would benefit the town by creating as many as 15 new jobs, about five of which would be full-time. Also, just as Oktibbeha County has gained tax revenue from Cowbells‚Äô extended hours under resort status, Waide said, Starkville could gain tax revenue from State Theatre.
Without the extension, Waide said, Starkville loses revenue other towns enjoy.
‚ÄúThey have later hours in places like Tuscaloosa, Nashville (and) Baton Rouge,‚ÄĚ Waide said. ‚ÄúWhenever Mississippi State has athletic events, you have all these people who are coming from out of town who are looking for something to do at night and who are used to being able to stay out later. Basically, we‚Äôve cut them off and said, ‚ÄėAt 1 a.m., you have to stop spending money in Starkville, because there‚Äôs nowhere else for you to go.‚Äô‚ÄĚ
For those concerned about more people being more intoxicated on Starkville‚Äôs streets at later hours, Waide offered a study conducted in 1996 in Ontario, Canada, as the province extended alcohol sales hours from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m. Waide said this study shows longer hours counteract ‚Äúpower drinking,‚ÄĚ where patrons order extra drinks in the minutes just before a bar closes.
‚ÄúIt extends the period of time, so their body processes the alcohol,‚ÄĚ Waide said. ‚ÄúWhat you actually get is a lower level of inebriation.‚ÄĚ
Waide said many of the students and other patrons at State Theatre live nearby and can walk home, reducing the risk of drunk driving from extended hours. Having a location like State Theatre close later than others also alleviates traffic problems, he said, because when all the bars close at once, all of their patrons pack the streets at once. Finally, he said, the extra money from later hours reduces the financial risks State Theatre takes in bringing larger acts to town, and better nightlife attracts businesses and other elements of growth.
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins said if the board supports State Theatre‚Äôs application, Perkins said, it could set a precedent for other venues in Starkville to seek resort status and extensions of hours as well. Perkins said Starkville does not need any more hours for alcohol sales than it already has to foster economic growth.
‚Äú(People) are not going to stop coming to Mississippi State University, the home of the Mississippi State Bulldogs, because of alcohol,‚ÄĚ Perkins said. ‚ÄúNobody can convince me. If we abolish alcohol, if we stop selling alcohol, people are still going to come to this land-grant institution. We need to make a statement that we‚Äôre not in the business of selling alcohol at all times of night.‚ÄĚ