Inn at Ole Miss seeking Resort Status
The Inn at Ole Miss brought its case for qualified resort status before the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors on Monday morning.
Attorney Winston Collier spoke on behalf of the Inn and the Ole Miss Alumni Association, who oversees operations of the hotel. The main reason for seeking resort status, he said, was so the hotel would be able to serve alcohol during events.
“My discussions with the Inn at Ole Miss, from a budgetary standpoint, they have made it known to me that their primary reason for requesting this is the ability to serve alcohol at wedding receptions, alumni receptions and when hosting events,” Collier said. “I think the general manager and the executive director of the alumni association can tell you, and I think this board will find it reasonable, that they’ve lost opportunities to host those types of events because of their inability to serve alcohol.”
In order to obtain qualified resort status through Alcoholic Beverage Control, parties in question have to gain approval from the county board of supervisors, provide a clear map of the area in question, provide a list of steps taken in order to make the area a qualified resort, obtain endorsements from three civic clubs, obtain assurance from local law enforcement and provide proof of publication of legal notices and all public opinion responses. After completing these prerequisites, the party can then submit their request to ABC for approval.
In the event the business does not gain approval, they may still apply for resort status by getting a required number of signatures on a petition.
Collier said the Inn had already completed several of the required items, including speaking with local law enforcement; in this case, Chief Ray Hawkins of the University Police Department. That support is one thing Collier said distinguishes the Inn from other businesses that have applied (and failed) to obtain resort status.
“This is a unique situation, and it is so because we have the university police department. Of course, the sheriff’s department has jurisdiction when it comes to executing warrants and things of that nature,” Collier said. “But what I understand is that from a day-to-day operational monitoring, the UPD would oversee that. We’ve been in discussions with Chief Hawkins for some time now, about his commitment to continued law enforcement presence at the Inn at Ole Miss.”
He also provided the supervisors with a copy of a formal letter from Hawkins detailing his department’s commitment to enforcing the Local Option Beverage Control laws of the state.
Kirk Purdom, executive director of alumni affairs for the Ole Miss Alumni Association, said the Inn has been hurt financially in the past, simply because serving alcohol was not an option they could offer to clients.
“We’re a hotel and a conference center. Just recently, we lost an event that would have booked our entire hotel because we aren’t able to serve alcohol,” Purdom said. “The clients moved their event to Memphis because there wasn’t another place in town that could meet all the needs for a crowd that large.”
With tourism in the LOU community reaching multimillion-dollar levels, Purdom said it’s a loss of revenue that could be felt across the board.
To clarify the Inn at Ole Miss’s stance, Collier discussed the differences between this request and those in the past. This request, he said, is simply to keep the Inn relevant and give guests and potential clients a full-service experience.
“I want to be clear, this is not so there’s a honky tonk on campus,” Collier said. “It’s important to note that this is an attempt to make a family resort more attractive and offer more amenities to the folks that frequent it.”
District 1 Supervisor Kevin Frye said he could see the Inn at Ole Miss has a clear grasp on the situation and what the statutes dictating resort status entail.
“There’s no doubt in my mind [the resort status law] was intended for these situations,” Frye said. “I feel confident in the university police department and Chief Hawkins, and based on your presentation, I would move to approve.”
The board of supervisors voted to approve the Inn at Ole Miss’s request to apply for qualified resort status in a unanimous vote.
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