Pascagoula at odds over alcohol laws

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - You'll find Lee Ashley Guy and his three young children at Pascagoula's Beach Park several evenings a week. He feels safe bringing them there knowing alcohol is banned on public property in Pascagoula.

"I used to drink in my younger days," Guy said. "I know how alcohol makes you act, and that's nothing for the kids to be around."

Just down the road, Jimmy Ezell has the same concerns, but doesn't think the current ban on alcohol is the answer.

"With a permit or something of that nature, I think they could control it better," Ezell said.

The city council recently tabled and is researching an amendment that would allow a special exception for certain events, on a case by case basis.

"I think the motivation to amend it would be to see what's out there, basically," Corder said. "There are some events, some opportunities out there that may use the Senior Citizens' Center, the Parks and Recreation Center, possibly the old depot downtown for different functions that may include alcohol."

Corder said if the change were to pass, he would take great caution in issuing permits. He gave a short list of examples of acceptable events.

"Some examples could be fund raisers for the art depot, wedding receptions, class reunions, those types of things," Corder said.

Corder also listed Biloxi's Crawfish Festival and several festivals in Ocean Springs as examples of events involving alcohol he believes benefit their respective cities.

Some residents and several churches adamantly oppose the change.

"Many folks feel, as I do, that it would not be an advantage for the city to bring alcohol as a welcome guest onto city properties," said Ed Jones, a deacon at First Baptist Church in Pascagoula. "It's certainly not going to be conducive to the family friendly atmosphere that the city has when we have city activities."

Jones said he supports the work of city officials, but hopes they'll take a close, critical look at the alcohol policy change before they act on it.

"I don't think it's something we need," Jones said. "I'm certainly for economic development in the City of Pascagoula. I'm excited about a lot of the things that are coming, but I don't think we want to make consumption of alcohol on city properties a facet of that."

For Corder, the controversy is not about alcohol itself, but about citizens' rights to public property.

"All taxpayers, whether you drink or not, whether you're Baptist, Catholic, Atheist, whether you drink or not, you have equal access to taxpayer property. We're all taxpayers. And to me, that's more of an issue here than anything else."

Corder said he would hesitate to approve an alcohol permit for any family-centered event.

"In my mind, where if kids are present, if it's a family type of event, it would be hard to pass that," Corder said.

The council could bring the amendment back up for review any time. Jones hopes that time is never.

"I hope its tabled a very long time, to where at some point it's just not even a consideration," Jones said.

Corder said the city has not set a date the bring the topic back up for discussion. The council welcomes public input on the issue.

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