By Errol Castens and Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal
New Albany and Corinth are two of the cities that could stage liquor-legalization elections after Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill Monday to let some cities decide the issue without countywide input.
The law allows for an election on legalization of wine and spirits if 20 percent of the qualified electors within the city sign petitions. Qualifying cities must have more than 5,000 residents or be a county seat.
Union County rejected countywide liquor legalization by a 57-43 percent margin in 2008 and by a 61-39 margin in 2011. New Albany voters legalized beer in January 2010 by 54 to 46 percent, but liquor might be a tougher sale: In January’s liquor vote, precincts predominated by New Albany residents voted by less than one-tenth of a percent to reject liquor.
Angele Mueller, owner of Tallahatchie Gourmet in New Albany, said even limited legalization would be “a good start.”
“Right now New Albany doesn’t have that many restaurants. We have mostly fast food,” she said. If liquor and wine are legalized, “I imagine there would be some new restaurants.”
The Shak, a barbecue place that already sells beer, is another New Albany restaurant that presumably would benefit. Its Oxford location also serves mixed drinks. Owner Sam Creekmore could not be reached for comment.
The Corinth Board of Aldermen in January requested the Legislature allow a liquor vote in that city.
“I’m glad Corinth played a part in getting the overall movement started,” said Judge John Ross, a leading advocate of the vote. “I think we’ll see petitions pretty soon.”
Corinth Alderman Andrew Labas said many of his Ward 1 constituents desired a chance to vote on the issue. “I’m glad to see it has passed and at least we have the potential for a vote now, though we have some hurdles to overcome,” Labas said.
Said Ward 3 Alderman Chip Wood: “I feel pretty confident we’ll see something soon, as many people as approached me saying they would like to have the vote, though I don’t know of anyone specific. I feel sure the more the information gets out there will be people ready to act on it.”
Rep. Margaret Rogers and Sen. Nickey Browning, who represent New Albany, and Rep. Nick Bain and Sen. Rita Parks, whose districts include Corinth, voted against the measure.