JACKSON – The Mississippi Supreme Court will be asked to rehear an ongoing dispute over Pike County’s ordinance that bans alcohol along popular waterways, said attorneys on both sides of the issue.
Justices ruled last week that county supervisors can ban consumption, but not possession, of alcohol.
Wayne Dowdy, an attorney who represents the Pike County Board of Supervisors, told the Enterprise-Journal there’s a strong argument to make for the full ban.
The ordinance banning sale of alcohol applies to the Bogue Chitto River from Holmesville to the Bogue Chitto Water Park, and Topisaw Creek from Leatherwood Road to the Bogue Chitto River.
The county enacted the ban in 2008, and it was upheld by a judge later that year.
In the 5-3 ruling, justices cited state law allowing possession of alcohol unless voters in a county oppose it. Pike County voters approved possession in a 1966 referendum, so a county ordinance can’t overturn that even in a designated area, the ruling said.
But Dowdy said the state law shouldn’t mean local officials have no right to regulate possession of alcohol in specific cases. He cited signs at Edgewood Park in McComb prohibiting the possession of beer.
“That (ruling) means McComb police can’t arrest somebody for showing up out there with an ice chest full of beer, and the only thing they can act on is if they actually see the person ingesting,” Dowdy said.
Alfred Felder, who challenged the ban on behalf of Wendy Ryals of Dogwood Tube, Canoe amp& Kayak Rental and Ronald Perry of Gator’s Tubing, said he’ll also file a petition for rehearing by the Supreme Court. Felder will ask the court to reverse the entire ordinance, including the ban on consumption.
Perry said the ban crippled his business.
“If I didn’t have my other job with my brother, I couldn’t pay my bills,” Perry said. “It would have closed me down without it.”
He said his business has dropped dramatically – 300 tubes were rented this past July 4 compared to “thousands” before the alcohol ban.
Perry said customers have gone to other rivers where they can either drink legally or get away with drinking on rivers in dry counties.
“In my personal opinion, I think people have that right to make the decision whether to drink on the river or not drink on the river, and have law enforcement and possibly private security to enforce it, over-intoxication,” Perry said.
The Associated Press