To-go cup bill to stay out of city for now

Published 2:41 pm Wednesday, May 18, 2016

By Reid Posey

Despite the recent passing of House Bill 1223 allowing municipalities to establish “leisure and recreation districts” in which restaurant and bar patrons may carry their open containers of alcoholic beverages outside establishments, Oxonians likely will not see the creation of one of these entertainment districts in their town anytime soon.

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The bill, frequently referred to as the “to-go cup bill,” was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant last Wednesday and specifies a number of municipalities that are allowed to establish these recreation districts, a list that did not include Oxford. The municipalities listed in the bill include any incorporated city, town, or village in Jackson, Harrison, and Hancock counties along the Mississippi Coast, as well as Hattiesburg, Tupelo, Holly Springs, Greenville, Greenwood, Canton, Grenada, Starkville, Water Valley, Jackson, Senatobia and Corinth.

According to state Rep. Jay Hughes of Oxford, the municipalities involved in this bill specifically asked to be included themselves, in an effort to increase tourism.

Both Hughes and Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson voiced their reservations regarding the establishment of an entertainment district in Oxford. Patterson noted the importance of maintaining a safe, friendly environment for Oxford residents and felt that the creation of a recreation district would not be in the best interest of preserving this atmosphere, while Hughes also drew on his experience in local affairs to arrive at a similar conclusion.

“From my experience on the Board of Alderman, I am keenly aware that we should think twice about making alcohol any more accessible on the Square, particularly at night,” Hughes said. “The Square needs to remain a place open and welcome to all families, students and visitors.”

During the bill’s time working its way through the legislature, the Mississippi Restaurant Association circulated the bill throughout the state, but Hughes said that he did not hear a particular consensus from Oxford business owners in support or opposition to the legislation.

“This will be a decision for the local leadership,” Hughes said. “If they decide they want an entertainment district, I will be happy to carry it to Jackson from them.”

The new law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.