By Alyssa Schnugg
The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors agreed Monday to issue a resolution in support of the University of Mississippi seeking Resort Status at the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, The Pavilion and the adjoining plazas for non-athletic events.
If approved by the Mississippi Department of Revenue, those areas will be allowed to sell beer at non-athletic events such as concerts. Lafayette County is “wet” for liquor and wine, but the sale of beer is unlawful unless granted permission by MDR with a “resort status.”
State law says a restaurant or other establishment can only sell alcohol if they are within the city limits. For those establishments that cater to tourists, they can apply for “resort status” from the Department of Revenue to serve alcohol.
The process starts with going to the local governing board to request approval. If denied, the business then gathers 100 signatures from neighbors and submits a request to the Mississippi Department of Revenue that can override the denial from the local board.
Local attorney Amanda Tollison, representing the university, told the Board Monday that UM officials felt the large event venues could be used throughout the year other than for just athletic games if granted the resort status.
“This will enable the university to enhance its amenities and offering for events not related to athletics,” she said. “We have these incredible spaces, premiere event spaces that are underutilized outside of their particular athletic seasons.”
The Board of Supervisors can only support the university’s request to MDR, not approve the resort status. If approved, any alcohol or beer being served or sold must be done through a permitted third-party caterer.
“They can still be denied (by MDR),” said Board President Jeff Busby. “Our resolution only shows our support.”
Supervisor Kevin Frye said he believes the resort status, if granted, will help local tourism and the local economy and made the motion to approve the resolution of support. The Board voted unanimously to approve it. There was no discussion from the public attending the meeting on the request.
It is only the second time the Board of Supervisors has approved such a request.
In previous years, the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors has traditionally denied issuing a resolution in support of county businesses seeking resort status, despite knowing the Mississippi Department of Revenue would likely grant the petition. The main reason for denying them, according to Busby, was one of safety.
“Our sheriff’s department has 600 square miles to patrol, and we still won’t likely give our approval to businesses seeking resort status in the county in the future,” he said.
The first time the Board approved a resolution in support of an entity seeking resort status was for The Inn at Ole Miss.
Busby said the difference is that the University of Mississippi has its own police department that will take on the responsibilities of making sure all Mississippi Department of Alcohol and Beverage Control laws are enforced for any campus activities.