By Errol Castens
NEW ALBANY – Three businesses now sell wines and spirits in New Albany, after voters approved legalization in March.
Two package stores, The Loft Wine & Spirits and New Albany Wine & Spirits, opened in June on the west end of town.
“Most of the customers seem happy that we’ve opened,” said New Albany Wine & Spirits owner Ira Williams, noting a number of New Albany-employed customers from the dry counties of Tippah and Pontotoc.
Williams’ Pizza Pit restaurant serves beer, but he has no plans to add liquor or wine there.
“Pizza and beer are kind of a natural match,” he said.
El Agave Mexican restaurant began serving mixed drinks and wine on July 19. It already served beer, which was legalized within the city limits in 2010.
“We opened last September with the hopes that liquor would pass,” said owner Moises Lemus. He said regulars spend more money per table since alcohol service began.
“We’ve also seen an increase in customers from outside New Albany,” he said. Lemus insisted some of the attraction is El Agave’s guacamole, made fresh at the diner’s table.
Tallahatchie Gourmet, which operates as a restaurant and as a caterer, has applications pending for both roles. Owner Angele Mueller said a caterer’s license would enable her to bid on events in New Albany and in areas where liquor was already legal. The on-premises license also will expand Tallahatchie Gourmet’s restaurant business.
“Right now we’re open for lunch, but we’re planning to open for dinner once we get licensed,” she said.
Neither restaurant plans to test New Albany’s midnight sales cutoff in the near future.
“We close at 10:30,” Lemus said. “I don’t see a demand for staying open much later.”
Mueller said, “Our evenings will start off Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and I expect we’ll be finished by 10 o’clock. We’re not going to be a late-night bar.”
What’s been the result of alcohol sales on police work?
“I haven’t run the numbers,” new Police Chief Chris Robertson said, noting he’s knee-deep in budget proposals for Fiscal Year 2014. “But … just from observing the daily reports, we haven’t seen an increase in crime that’s alcohol-related.”