By Alyssa Schnugg
Water Valley’s controversial city law requiring a meal to be served when ordering beer or light wine will remain as is after the required vote to overturn the mayor’s veto was not reached during a special meeting Thursday.
To overturn Gray’s veto, four of the five aldermen needed to vote in favor to overrule; however, only two aldermen voted to overturn – Cinnamon Foster and Kagan Coughlin. Alderman Nicole Folson, who was one of the three votes on Jan. 11 in favor of removing the restriction from the Beer Ordinance was unable to attend Thursday’s meeting. Voting against overruling the veto were aldermen Herbie Rogers and Fred White.
The Board voted 3 to 2 to strike the portion of the ordinance requiring the meal during a special meeting on Jan. 11. Mayor Donald Gray formerly vetoed the vote last week.
Section 7 of the ordinance reads: “No person or licensee under this ordinance shall sell give or dispense or permit to be sold given or dispensed beer or light wine to a patron without serving to such patron a meal therewith or anticipation thereof.”
Gray said his decision to veto was solely based on safety.
“Ninety-nine percent of the people are going to responsible drinkers,” he said. “But we’re responsible for the 1 percent who will get out there and hurt someone in our town … When it comes down to a decision, sometimes I have to base it on what I feel is best.”
Foster said Thursday’s vote should not be about taking a stand against alcohol.
“It’s about improving the commerce in our town,” she said. “And most of all, an attempt to save to two of our oldest historic buildings in the center of our downtown commercial district. It makes no sense that people can go buy pure grain alcohol without having to buy a meal, but one cannot buy a light alcohol drink like beer and light wine without purchasing a full meal.”
The Beer Ordinance dispute came to light at the start of the new year after business owner Terry Warren filed for a permit to demolish two 140-year-old buildings on North Main Street, citing the city’s Beer Ordinance as the main reason he could not open a bar and restaurant in the buildings he purchased in 2017.
He said after investing “a million dollars” in renovations of the two buildings, he would be better off financially to demolish and take the tax credit.
His first permit request was denied by the city’s engineer; however, he has re-filed his request to demolish and is awaiting a decision.
Earlier this month, the Board of Aldermen approved a resolution of intent to form a historic preservation commission that included a 180-day moratorium that would prevent any substantial demolition or alteration to any buildings in the existing downtown commercial or historic district.
While Coughlin voted in favor of overturning the ruling, he said he was disappointed that this topic is what draws Water Valley residents to meetings.
“We’ve had volunteer days at the elementary school and clean up days around town, and recently, events in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. and I didn’t see many people at those events,” he said Thursday. “A low-grain alcohol that’s been around since the medieval times brings them out. I’m exhausted about this issues and disappointed in everyone who shows up for this and nothing else.”