Meridian Star

April 14, 2013

Giving voters a choice makes sense

The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN — On June 4, residents of the city of Philadelphia will vote in a general election on whether or not to allow the sale of wine and liquor within city limits.

    Beer sales are allowed in Philadelphia, although Neshoba County is a dry county.

    Last year, the Mississippi Legislature approved a new law signed by Gov. Phil Bryant that allows city residents in municipalities of at least 5,000 people to vote on whether or not to legalize liquor inside city limits.

    A countywide vote was required prior to the passage of the law. Under the new law, if voters approve the sale of liquor, it will be up to the municipality's governing body to decide if the liquor and wine can be sold only in restaurants or in package stores as well.

    In Philadelphia, Mayor James Young and the board of alderman would choose where wine and alcohol is sold if the measure is approved by voters.

    Young, who is also pastor of Calvary Apostolic Church in Louisville, favors liquor and wine sales within the city, although he does not intend to ever purchase alcohol himself. The issue to him is one of economic development.

    "I think we are missing some opportunities for some upper level restaurants by not making alcohol sales available," Young said. "We are not going to get any of the next level restaurants if we don't have this available to them. I don't drink but I do like good food."

    Local attorney Jeremy Chalmers has been at the forefront of efforts to get the alcohol initiative on the ballot in Philadelphia.

     "It doesn't make sense to me to limit a proprietor's ability to offer alcohol for sale," Chalmers said, noting that casinos in Neshoba County, Silver Star and Golden Moon, are already allowed to serve alcohol.

    It is a valid argument.

    Some chain restaurants will not locate within a dry county or city. Localities that allow liquor sales at restaurants have an advantage over those that do not when it comes to attracting some new eateries.

    And we are not adverse to an adult having a glass of wine or alcoholic drink with their meal. Irresponsible alcohol consumption is another matter all together and there are laws in place to deal with those who drink in excess.

    At the same time,  we understand why the sale of wine and liquor would be of concern to some residents.

    We will be OK with the outcome of the June 4 vote in Philadelphia regardless of what residents decide. For us, we are just glad to see that they will be able to make that choice.

    For that, we applaud the Mississippi Legislature and Gov. Bryant.