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Department of Revenue drops hammer on Bay St. Louis small businesses

» Wine serving law breakers hear from the State of Mississippi

BAY ST. LOUIS — Businesses in Old Town Bay St. Louis have been told they can no longer serve alcohol during the town’s Second Saturday events without permits.

The Sun Herald reports the ruling breaks a 20-year tradition, and has many merchants and visitors confused and frustrated.

Now, some business owners who say they depend on the monthly event are hoping to work with their state representatives on legislation that would allow them to continue operating as before.

“These are small businesses,” said Jane Alford, a downtown business owner and president of the Old Town Merchants Association. “They are locally owned. Basically, Second Saturdays pay the rent.

“If it goes away or if attendance starts to dwindle, it will have a significant effect on businesses in Old Town. Some won’t survive.”

The Second Saturday Artwalk has for decades been a staple in the community to draw both residents and visitors into local businesses. Stores stay open after regular hours. Most provide free snacks and, until last month, some also offered wine or alcoholic punch. Visitors could drink a glass of wine, browse and make purchases.

During the July event, an agent with Alcoholic Beverage Control wrote warning citations to two businesses after the violations were brought to the agency’s attention, said Kathy Waterbury, the communications director for the Mississippi Department of Revenue, which oversees ABC.

Soon after, an agent also attended a meeting of the Old Town Merchants Association to explain the law.

“When we discover a violation such as this, we go in and discuss it with people and let them know what the law is, what their options are so they can come into compliance,” Waterbury said. “In this situation, that’s what happened.”

The August event was the first Artwalk held after the crackdown and some retailers were visibly on edge, doing everything they could to make it obvious the glasses of lemonade contained only lemonade.

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