Bait Shop Closed, DMR Made Mistake

The owners of J's Bait shop in Pascagoula applied for a live bait dealer license a few months ago. The Department of Marine Resources issued the license, but now says they made a mistake. The business owners say they're ready to sue.

If Jessica Ryals would have known her business was only going to last two months she says, "We'd never put money in the bait shop."

Ryals and her husband wanted to start the family business. Her husband would catch the seafood and Ryals would stay behind the counter and sell it.

"We were going to try it. (We) thought we'd do good. Then they shut us down," Ryals says.

DMR told them to close their doors a month ago because their bait shop was not on the water. But Ryals says a representative from DMR inspected the building and gave them the license to open.

"We asked them before we ever started the business, before we ever started to got the lease. They said it was fine," Ryals adds.

DMR officials admit the mistake was theirs. They say that Ryals can get another license, a seafood dealers license. With that license, DMR says Ryals could continue her business as usual. But Ryals says she knows that license is a commercial one and her boat is just too small for commercial fishing.

Miller says Ryals spent $10,000 to $15,000 to get the shop open. Now the shop's closed.

"Yeah, everything's lost now," Ryals adds.

Miller says DMR should have to refund the money she put into opening the business.

"I just think the DMR should have known their job and have not issued the license in the beginning. That's just stupidity," Miller adds.

DMR says this is not something that happens very often. The department says it will refund only the money Ryals paid on the licenses.

Ryals is in the process of talking to her attorney about taking DMR to court.