Tupelo could reconsider brown bag privilege after problems in parking lots

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Roving crowds of nightclub revelers partying in parking lots and causing headaches for businesses and police officers could prompt a repeal of Tupelo’s brown bag ordinance.
The ordinance, in effect since 1993, says establishments can allow customers to bring their own wine and liquor for on-site consumption, even if those establishments don’t have a state liquor license.
Many of the businesses operating under the brown-bag ordinance have lost their state liquor licenses and found a loophole to continue serving liquor – even if they’re not selling it, said Tupelo Police Maj. Anthony Hill.
The problem occurs, Hill says, when these establishments close and turn loose dozens of customers who then congregate in convenience store parking lots to continue the party. One of the most popular spots, though, is the Walmart on West Main Street.
“They’ll leave these establishments and go to the Walmart parking lot, and there will be literally 200-250 people in the parking lot at 2 a.m.,” said Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan, who initiated the ordinance’s repeal. “It’s so bad that Walmart will have to call the police and just shut the doors and say, ‘We’re closed,’”
The Daily Journal could not immediately reach Walmart’s district manager.
Though parking lot party participants can come from other venues, a majority seem to originate at brown-bag clubs, such as Rooster Cats on McCullough Boulevard, Hill said.
City Council members are set to consider an ordinance prohibiting alcohol consumption in a private or public commercial establishment unless it’s sold by that establishment and unless that establishment has a liquor license.
The proposed ordinance is on the council’s study agenda today and could come up for vote next month.
“Right now, we’re just trying to find a solution,” Hill said. “I can’t say it will help, but we’ve got to try.”
emily.lecoz@journalinc.com