Tupelo’s transition to seven-day alcohol and wine sales by the drink quietly became law Wednesday with the Mississippi Tax Commission’s approval of a petition for on-premises restaurant, club, and caterer sales from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m., the same as beer and light wine Sunday sales approved in 2009.
The order is effective immediately, which means licensed businesses may begin on-premises sales Sunday, if they choose.
While strong opposition – mostly from some church and religious groups – was expressed against both the beer and liquor sales, beer and light wine sales so far have been without major incident. The laws governing alcohol sales will apply on Sunday as on the other six days: limitations by specific hours, legal age and intoxication.
The return of Sunday sales comes full circle from Tupelo’s early days, but Mississippi’s 1907 ban – years before the rest of the nation in 1919 by federal constitutional amendment – made Tupelo officially dry every day.
Mississippi’s official prohibition (widely mocked by bootleg alcohol sales, on which the state collected a “black market tax” on bonded alcohol) stood longer than any other state, becoming a local option again in 1966. Lee County and Tupelo were among the first to adopt legal sales, excluding Sundays. Federal prohibition repeal took effect Dec. 5, 1933, following a “dry” nation policy – a source of violence, corruption and hypocrisy – since 1919.
A Democratic Congress drove the 1933 repeal of national prohibition; a Republican-dominated City Council adopted Tupelo’s Sunday on-premises beer, wine and liquor sales.
Tupelo’s adoption of Sunday sales, which previously had been attempted without success, came during a year of political and regional changes.
The election of a City Council with five new members changed the dynamics for the issue, and a fall vote allowing Sunday beer and light wine sales soon was seen as an inevitable step toward Sunday liquor.
Tupelo’s Sunday sales vote followed new or extended Sunday on-premises ordinances in Starkville, Columbus and Aberdeen. Those nearby Sunday sales added energy to economic arguments for legalization in Tupelo.
It is noteworthy that Oxford, widely viewed as heavily dependent on alcohol sales in restaurants and entertainment venues, remains dry on Sundays.
Legal alcohol is not an invitation to excess on any day; it provides a choice for consumption within the law.
Forty-four years after prohibition’s repeal in Mississippi, steady enforcement and personal responsibility remain necessary – as before 1966 legalization, when anyone of any age could buy alcohol from bootleggers – because tragedy sometimes accompanies abuse and excess.
NEMS Daily Journal