No economic boosts seen in cities from Sunday sales

Starkville this week became the latest in a string of north Mississippi cities to approve Sunday alcohol sales, but the move isn’t likely to save its economy or sink its morals.
Preceding the college town in lifting the Sunday liquor ban were Olive Branch and Hernando. The Memphis suburbs both did so about one year ago, allowing sales in restaurants on Sundays. And in the months since, officials from those communities say they’ve seen little difference in business or behavior.
“I’ve seen no effect at all, either good or bad,” said Olive Branch Mayor Sam Rikard. “I’m not seeing any change in anything.”
Olive Branch voted in March 2008 to allow alcohol sales from 1 p.m. to midnight on Sundays. With nearby Southaven and Memphis already selling beer, wine and liquor on Sundays, Rikard said his city wanted to make sure it didn’t lose business.
Hernando did the same thing, said its mayor, Chip Johnson. It voted in May to allow Sunday sales from 1 p.m. to 1 a.m.
“I know the businesses wanted this, so they’re probably making a little extra money and we’re probably getting a little more sales tax revenue, but I can’t prove it,” he said. “I do know for a fact there have been no problems.”

Proof’s in the taxes?
Monthly sales tax collections reports from the Mississippi Tax Commission show little effect from Sunday sales in either city. In Hernando, monthly sales tax collections actually declined in the first five months after the change, compared to the previous year.
But sales tax collections are down in most communities because of the economy, said Vickie DuPree, executive director of Olive Branch Chamber of Commerce. That city’s sales tax collections went up the first month, down the second month, up again and down again.
DuPree said she had heard nothing from area businesses about the economic impact of Sunday alcohol sales, if there has been one at all. She did, however, say that some restaurants now open on Sundays when previously they’d been closed.
One is John Daly’s Restaurant & Bar in Olive Branch. General Manager Pam Oswalt said she gets good after-church business in the restaurant now and an even bigger crowd for Sunday football games.
“It’s positive, definitely,” Oswalt said. “You’re not sending your Olive Branch patrons to Memphis anymore. You’re keeping your business right here in the city.”
Sales haven’t been as brisk at Mi Pueblo Mexican restaurant in Hernando, though.
“Business is almost the same,” said co-owner Moe Suents. “Lots of people don’t drink much on Sundays because everybody has to work on Monday.”
Also apparently unchanged are the communities’ incidences of crime, traffic accidents and general unruly behavior, officials from both cities said.
Representatives from the communities’ police departments could not be reached for comment, but the mayors said all is calm.
“I don’t think you’re going to have people on Sundays who want to get rip-roaring drunk,” Johnson said. “We’ve really had no ill effects.”
The Starkville Board of Aldermen on Tuesday voted 4-3 to amend its alcohol ordinance to allow businesses in the city to sell beer on Sundays. That change takes effect 30 days from the vote.
Aldermen also voted to petition the State Tax Commission to allow restaurants, bars and nightclubs to sell liquor and wine. Tax Commission approval is required before those sales can begin.

Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.

Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal