Cheers

By ANTHONY WARREN,

City considers allowing alcohol sales before noon on Sundays.

Northsiders who go out to eat for Sunday brunch could soon no longer have to leave Jackson to enjoy a mimosa or Bloody Mary with their eggs Benedict.

The Jackson City Council is considering amending an ordinance to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages before noon on Sunday.

City leaders and restaurant owners alike support the measure, largely because it would make restaurants more competitive with those in surrounding cities and resort areas.

Backers also say amending city code will increase business for local establishments, and at the same time generate more tax revenues for city coffers.

A measure authored by Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks would allow restaurants to start selling alcoholic beverages at 10 a.m. Sunday morning. It would also amend city statute to allow alcohol sales until 2 a.m. Monday through Sunday.

Currently, Jackson dining establishments are allowed to sell libations between 10 a.m. and midnight Monday through Saturday, and 12 a.m. to midnight on Sunday.

Banks said he authored the amendments after being approached by a contingency of restaurant owners. Numerous restaurants in the city serve brunch, including several on the Northside.

“When we first met with some of the owners, they were talking about the amount of revenues they were losing,” he said. “If they had expanded hours, how much more revenue would that be for them, and (how much) more would that be in tax revenue for the city?

He spoke of a restaurant owner in particular who said if he could open for Sunday brunch, he could pull in an extra $2,500 a week. That owner is currently not opened for Sunday brunch, because of the city’s alcohol ordinance.

Currently, the Manship is open for Saturday and Sunday brunch, but the Saturday crowd is much larger because libations can be sold beginning at 10 a.m.

Steven O’Neill, owner of the Belhaven establishment, estimates that allowing Sunday morning alcohol sales would generate an additional $25,000 a year in sales.

Based on his projections, mid-morning Sunday sales would mean an additional $2,250 in sales tax revenues, of which the cash-strapped city and Visit Jackson would receive a portion.

In addition to more revenues for the city, O’Neill said increased sales would mean having to hire more people. “We could hire more people (and) pay people more,” he said.

Jeff Good, owner of Broad Street Baking Company, Bravo! and Sal and Mookie’s Pizza and Ice Cream Joint, also supports allowing Sunday morning alcohol sales.

“One of the challenges is that folks come in at 11 o’clock and like to have an orange juice and champagne, and we tell them they can’t,” he said. “Customers, especially those from out-of-town, are frustrated by that.”

Good doesn’t know if he’s lost business as a result of the city’s current restrictions. However, it believes that changing the hours would drive business. “What’s the big difference between 10 a.m. and 12 (noon) in the scheme of things?”

Other cities already allow Sunday morning alcohol sales. According to the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s website, Ridgeland and Madison allow dining establishments to sell beer and light wine 10 a.m. to 12 midnight Monday through Sunday.

In 2014, the city of Oxford amended its ordinance to allow Sunday sales of wine and beer by the glass.

Kinney Ferris, deputy director of Visit Oxford, the city’s tourism bureau, said the change in the law has brought in new restaurants and increased occupancy rates at hotels there.

“It makes people stay Saturday night rather than going home,” she said. “It’s had a big impact.”

Tourism tax revenues in the college town have more than doubled since. In 2014, the tax generated $229,541, according to the Mississippi Department of Revenue. Last year, the tax generated $435,420.

Locally, Visit Jackson President and CEO Rickey Thigpen has a similar argument. He said allowing early Sunday sales would not only make restaurants more competitive with the suburbs but “heighten our position as a true visitor destination.”

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote supports the measure. “We need to level the playing field for restaurants,” he said.

The measure was introduced at the council’s July 23 meeting and placed in the council planning committee. Typically, before new ordinances or amendments to an existing ordinance can be voted on, they are placed in a council committee for further investigation.

Placing a measure in committee also allows time for the city’s legal department to review a proposal to ensure that it doesn’t violate existing ordinances or state law.

Council President Virgi Lindsay said the council hopes to move on the matter quickly but wanted to make sure the ordinance was cleared by legal before being brought up again for a vote.

If the measure is approved, the city will have to submit a request asking the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) division to approve the extended sales hours.

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