Tupelo beer vote creates quick reaction

TUPELO – Sunday sales of beer and light wine won’t take effect for another month, but reaction to the change in law erupted immediately.
Within minutes of the City Council’s vote Tuesday to legalize Sunday sales, Internet users buzzed with feedback on NEMS360.com, Facebook pages and Internet message boards. It was a topic of discussion on sidewalks and workplaces, and had businesses making new plans for their operations.
On Wednesday, Vanelli’s announced it will create a family section inside the popular restaurant where alcohol won’t be served on Sundays.
“I’m pleased that the council was willing to take up a controversial issue and act upon it,” said owner vazVanelli, who spoke Tuesday at City Hall. “I’m pleased that visitors to our community will not be disappointed, and I’m pleased and proud to be a resident of Tupelo.”
Not proud were the many opponents of Sunday beer and light wine sales, including the Rev. Forrest Sheffield, who also spoke at City Hall.
“I am sadly disappointed in my community,” Sheffield said. “I felt like we were asked to come and share our views, and we did, and I feel like minds were already made up from the majority of the council members before we even got there.”
The City Council voted 4-3 on Tuesday to lift the Sunday ban. It does not affect regular wine and liquor, both of which still are banned for sale on Sundays, but which are available – along with beer and light wine – the other six days of the week.
Sheffield helped mount organized opposition to the measure, encouraging hundreds of people to call council members and ask them to vote no. A day after the vote passed, Sheffield said he doesn’t plan to launch another round of opposition.
Business owners, meanwhile, are preparing for the change. John Robbins, who co-owns Verona-based Robbins Oil Co., which owns two convenience stores in Tupelo, said he’ll train his employees on the new regulations and remind them to watch the clock on Sundays.
“I think it will do very well. I think, actually, the public will never know the difference,” Robbins said. “I think it will keep the sales in Tupelo that have been traveling out. I don’t think there is a negative.”
Also pleased was Clyde Whitaker, former Tupelo mayor and a partner in Contemporary Restaurants, which owns Old Venice Pizza and Varsity Grille in Tupelo.
“I feel good,” he said. “I really appreciate the people who were opposed to it and respect their opinion. But I think this is an economic development issue. Now it’s up to the restaurants and stores and law enforcement to also make sure it’s implemented correctly.”
But nobody expects an immediate windfall from the decision. According to Tupelo Restaurant Association President Jim Beane, it could take years to recognize the economic benefits of Sunday beer sales.
“It’s going to be a slow effect overall,” said Beane, who doesn’t sell alcohol in his own eatery but represents dozens of establishments that do.
“I don’t think … we’re going to start selling hundreds of thousands of dollars of beer on Sunday. It will take several years for the Convention and Visitors Bureau to sell this for Sunday jobs.”

NEMS Daily Journal