Group works to have beer referendum in Booneville

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – More than half of the needed signatures have been gathered in a drive by business owners to force a referendum on the sale of beer.
The petitions could be delivered to the circuit clerk’s office as early as today for signature validation to begin, said Gary Walker, president of Citizens for New Business and Growth.
“I have in my possession a little over half the required signatures,” Walker said Monday. “We’re going to go ahead and submit those to the circuit clerk for verification, start the process while we’re picking up the others.”
Walker said about 40 businesses are gathering signatures on the petitions. If the clerk certifies 20 percent of registered voter signatures – 1,089 according to Walker, though they plan to gather 1,500 – they could ask the city to set the election.
Voters would decide if beer with an alcoholic content of 5 percent or less and light wine could be sold in the city.
“We want everyone inside the city to vote their opinion on this issue and let the majority rule,” Walker said. “This issue is about new business coming to the area. Ninety percent of the nation is wet, and national chains don’t want to come to a community that’s not wet.”
The delivery of the signatures comes less than a week after another Northeast Mississippi city, New Albany, began legal sales of beer.
As in the debate in New Albany and elsewhere, both sides have taken a firm stand in pushing their case.
Elders of the Booneville Church of Christ bought a full-page ad in the Booneville newspaper opposing the effort, while Walker’s group also took out a full-page ad explaining their reasons for supporting the change.
“This issue was last voted on here 27 years ago and did not carry, but a lot has changed in 27 years,” Walker said.
Contact Lena Mitchell at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

How does a dry municipality become a wet municipality for alcoholic beverages?
Any municipality with a population of at least 2,500 people may vote to allow or prohibit the sale of beer within that municipality. The election will be called upon receipt by the governing authority of the city of a petition signed by 20 percent of the qualified electors of the city. An election to allow or prohibit the sale of beer may not be made in any city more than once every five years.
Source: Mississippi Tax Commission