City OKs changes to alcohol ordinance

Civil rights activist and Starkville native Dorothy Isaac presented a bottle of beer to the Starkville Board of Aldermen to emphasize her opposition to changes in the city’s alcohol ordinance. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN.)
Staff Writer

The Starkville Board of Aldermen passed the proposed changes to the alcohol ordinance during its meeting on Tuesday night at City Hall.

The board passed the changes with a 4-3 vote.

Ward 1 Alderman Ben Carver, Vice Mayor and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against the proposed changes.

The new regulations adapt the minimum state statutes of allowing businesses the ability to sell of alcohol at least 100 feet from a school, church and funeral home. Starkville’s current restriction is set at 250 feet.

These changes would also allow the sale of beer with an 8 percent alcohol content, while the current restriction sits at 5 percent. Additionally, restaurants and bars would have the ability to sell alcohol up to 1 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday and midnight on Sunday through Wednesday.

Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker proposed a change in the time to help make a compromise with the those in the community who were concerned about safety.

The ordinance will take 30 days before it goes into effect.

Mayor Lynn Spruill initiated the conversation with the Starkville Board of Aldermen to hold two public hearings on the ordinance change hoping to bring “economic impact” and to have the downtown area “stay alive after 5 p.m.”

During the public hearing, each side was given 15 minutes by the mayor to state their case for or against the changes

Around five people spoke on either side of the issue.

Once the public hearing concluded, the aldermen moved to a period of discussion. Perkins - who has been an outspoke opponent of the changes - passionately addressed the crowd about his concern about the distance mentioned in the ordinance.

“Leave it like it is,” Perkins said. “We are not trying to be a Bourbon Street.”

Perkins continued by saying the church should not have to compete with restaurants and businesses who sell alcohol, which is why he is strongly against the ordinance.

“We need to make sure we keep these establishments from God’s house,” Perkins said.

Perkins yielded his time and Spruill took over with a point of privilege to speak on her beliefs of the ordinance change.

Spruill said “downtown is our heartbeat” and if this ordinance does not pass “we are not going to have a heartbeat.”

With the changes to the ordinance successfully passing, Spruill said she is pleased with the outcome because it allows Starkville to be a more diverse and welcoming community.

Despite slight changes to the initially proposed amendments, Spruill felt the goal of updating the city's ordinance was achieved.

“I don’t mind at all that the hours were shortened a little bit because that was never my intention,” Spruill said. “My intention was Main Street and the effect that the surrounding churches had on our ability to attract restaurants and retail activity.”