TUPELO – Pending state approval, Tupelo will allow the sale of alcoholic beverages for five additional hours on Sundays and an extra hour every other day of the week.
The City Council discussed the issue for a few minutes and then voted 4-3 to extend the hours for alcohol sales, acting on a recent recommendation from the Tupelo Restaurant Association.
New hours restaurants can serve alcohol approved by the council are from 10 a.m. until 1 a.m. each day. Current hours are 10 a.m. until midnight on Monday through Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sundays.
The Mississippi Department of Revenue must formally approve the change for liquor and wine before it can take effect. However, the city can begin serving beer and light wine 30 days after the council vote.
This vote will affect sale of all alcoholic beverages in restaurants and beer and light wine in other businesses where it is sold, such as grocery and convenience stores.
Extending alcohol sales hasn’t been publicly discussed in more than a year, and council members opposed to the vote said the quick decision denies citizens an opportunity to voice their opinion on the issue.
“I think we owe it to our citizens the right to speak for it and against it,” Councilman Willie Jennings of Ward 7 said before the vote.
Representatives of area restaurants attended the meeting but lack of advance public discussion on the issue likely prevented opposition from organizing.
Council members Jim Newell of Ward 3, Markel Whittington of Ward 1, Nettie Davis of Ward 4 and Lynn Bryan of Ward 2 supported the change, each saying the move will increase the city’s tax base and enhance quality of life.
“We’re looking at this from an economic standpoint,” said Davis, council president. “We’re trying to move our city to another level.”
Jennings and Councilmen Buddy Palmer of Ward 5 and Mike Bryan of Ward 6 voted against the change.
Mayor Jason Shelton campaigned on making Tupelo a place where middle-income residents and young professionals want to live but said after the meeting that extended hours for alcohol sales wasn’t a part of his platform. He said he will not veto the council’s decision.
The Tupelo Restaurant Association unanimously voted on April 22 to support the change and asked the city to take action at today’s meeting.
“We feel that these extended hours will benefit the city, our businesses and guests of the City of Tupelo,” association president Jonathan Waller wrote in a letter to council members.
Some restaurants serving Sunday brunch would serve champagne, mimosas and Bloody Marys with the change of serving hours.
Hours when alcohol is served are different throughout the state from county to county and city to city. Nearly half of the state’s 82 counties prohibit the sale of beer, light wine or other alcoholic beverages.
Tupelo began in October 2009 serving beer and light wine on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. and received permission from the state in January 2010 to serve liquor during the same hours on Sunday. Starkville and Columbus passed Sunday alcohol sales earlier that year.
Tupelo’s new hours for alcohol sales are longer than nearby college towns of Starkville and Oxford.