Voters on Tuesday approved legalizing the sale of alcoholic beverages by a 57- to 43-percent margin. Unofficial totals show 1,204 voted for legalization and 905 voted against. Twenty-five affidavit ballots are not included in the totals.
They followed Corinth voters in utilizing a 2012 law that allows county seats and towns of more than 5,000 people to vote separately from their surrounding counties on legalizing wine and spirits if voters in a countywide election have rejected coming out from under the “dry” law.
New Albany had already voted in 2010 to allow the sale of beer and light wine.
“We’ve had more DUIs, but you’ve got to keep in mind that we have a full-time DUI officer that came in about the same time,” New Albany Police Chief David Grisham said. “You could say some of it’s due to the beer, and some is due to stricter enforcement. As far as the establishments that sell beer, we haven’t had a lot of problem with those.”
Union County Sheriff Jimmy Edwards said he hasn’t analyzed statistics but believes DUIs have increased in the county along with domestic violence.
“As the weather warms and people drink more, domestic violence goes up,” he said.
Proponents of legalization have touted the move as a boost to business. One building on a downtown corner bore a banner on Tuesday that said, “Future Restaurant when wine/liquor passes! Vote for on March 19th.”
“Several people have done presentations in New Albany about what the city needs to do to enhance itself,” said retiree M. Lance Phillips. “These people have said the town needs alcohol. It’s been told before, but I’m hoping people are actually listening to what the town needs.
“I just think that … it could be an opportunity for New Albany to stand out from surrounding towns.”
While sale of liquor is legal both by the bottle in package stores and by the drink in restaurants in most “wet” Mississippi cities and counties, the 2012 law applying only to cities allows local officials to allow both or to limit sales only to restaurants.
Actual wine and liquor sales will not be legal in New Albany until the Board of Aldermen passes an ordinance setting the parameters and until businesses get new licenses from the State Department of Revenue.