Area restaurants see new liquor law as possible economic boom

Published 12:18 am Wednesday, April 22, 2009

While not all Picayune restaurants would opt to serve liquor if the referendum makes it to the June ballot and passes, most see the signing of Legislative Bill 1441 by Gov. Haley Barbour on Friday as a positive for the city of Picayune. The bill, which defines the city of Picayune as a ‘resort area,’ and allows for voters to decide if they want area restaurants to be able to sell cocktails, does not affect any other area of the county.

“It would be interesting to see the revenue it could possibly generate for this area,” said Dockside owner and manager Angelle Carbone, who added that although she might decide to add drinks to the menu, she was not so sure it would increase business at her already busy seafood restaurant. “I just don’t know if it would bring in more business,” she said, noting that usually the only time they sold any amount of beer to diners was during crawfish season.

For the owner of Shorty’s Café, he said he did not see the passage of the bill as making much difference to his business on Mississippi Highway 11, noting that he was “lucky if I sell a case a beer a week,” at his establishment. “I won’t sell hard liquor,” said Shorty, who preferred to use just his first name. “I’m not against it, it’s just not me.”

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However, he added thathe did think if the referendum makes it to a public vote and is approved, “it might bring in bigger chains,” adding that he did not fear any loss of business. “(Chain restaurants opening in Picayune) will not affect my business,” he said

Crescent Café owner Kathy Treadway said she was in full support of the bill. “I would serve (drinks),” said Treadway. “For one thing, we are open Friday nights and we serve steaks and I see nothing wrong with a glass of wine with dinner.”

Saying that she was not sure it would necessarily generate more business at her restaurant, Treadway added that she believed that if the referendum passed, it could attract more businesses to the area and keep tax dollars local. “Our tax dollars are going across the state line,” she said. “And it might encourage business such as Outback to open here.”

Greater Picayune Chamber of Commerce vice president John McAulay said that while although the signing of the bill could have a positive economic impact for not only Picayune, but for the entire county, said that ultimately this was a matter for the citizens of Picayune to decide on.

“The Chamber supports its citizens and businesses and their right to choice,” said McAulay. “There is no better way to exercise your rights than the right to vote.”

Mayoral candidate Ezell Lee said he did not have an opinion on the passage of the bill or if it would help Picayune economically, but that the decision was in the hands of the people. “It’s up to the people whether they want it or not,” said Lee. “If the majority of the people approve it, it will be approved. If the majority of the people do not, it will not be approved.”

Candidate Ed Pinero said he, too, believes the decision of whether or not to allow restaurants to sell liquor was a decision now up to the residents of Picayune. “I believe since the legislature has moved this down to the people that the people have the right to vote on it and make the decision,” said Pinero.

Frank Edgar and Mark Thorman, also both mayoral candidates for Picayune, could not be reached for comment.

If a petition is generated and 20 percent of Picayune registered voters sign it, the petition is turned into the City Clerk’s office where the signatures are verified. Once that is done and there are adequate qualified signatures, the petition is presented to the City Council, which acknowledges the petition and then within 30 days, a vote must be held.