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MBJ Editorial: Year later, beer has New Albany business buzzing

It wasn’t that long ago that a beer bill in the Legislature was getting lots of attention from around the state.

It died a quiet death, never making it out of committee.

At the crux of our story were two Mississippi men who have started a craft beer business in Louisiana. They never considered Mississippi, in part, because of our laws, and said they could have made more than $250,000 a year selling craft beer here.

The legislation would have raised the allowable alcohol beer content from 5 percent alcohol by weight to 8 percent.

We chatted with Sen. Dean Kirby, R-Pearl, who chairs the Finance Committee. He confirmed he would allow it to die in committee.

“I really don’t want to put my committee members in an uncomfortable position in an election year.”

Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, who is the front-runner on the Republican side in this year’s race for governor, was quoted as saying he doesn’t “see a reasonable public benefit to increasing the alcohol content in Mississippi.”

Interestingly, the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo last week took a look at New Albany, which legalized beer sales in its community a year ago.

What has happened in the last year?

Dave McNeal, owner of Dave’s One Stop, told the Journal that selling beer has transformed his business.

“Two thousand and ten is the best year we’ve ever had,” he said.

Mitchell Beverage in Tupelo says New Albany has five of its top 10 clients.

The down side? Not much.

The Journal reported, according to Union County records, arrests for illegal possession/open container by all law enforcement agencies in the county dropped 30 percent, compared to the year before. Public drunkenness arrests went down almost 20 percent.

Craft beer and the New Albany example are admittedly different, but it does show alcohol sales can be a business boost, and isn’t necessarily evil incarnate.

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