BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - Jane Alford used a rainy Friday morning to prepare her clothing and gift shop for the "Second Saturday" crowds expected to pack her store.
Alford says customers come to Bay Tique looking for specific items, and expecting the courtesy services her business has always offered. However one of those services will be absent from most shops in old town on Saturday — handing out courtesy glasses of wine, or spiked punch.
"My biggest reaction was surprise. How could we all [have] been doing this for almost 20 years without any interference," questioned Janice Guido, Owner of Bay Life Gifts on Main Street.
What downtown merchants saw as a hospitable gesture to customers recently came under fire by the State Alcohol Beverage Control and came to an end.
"Somebody from ABC came here to enjoy Second Saturday, and unfortunately that's how things got started," said Jane Alford, President of the Old Town Merchants Association.
Three shop owners were issued citations for giving out alcohol without a permit, the $500 fines reduced to warnings.Going forward, most of the shop owners who spoke with WLOX News say they don't plan to pay the $35 fee for a state permit.
"As far as purchasing the permit, it's more costly than I spend for the cost of the wine for the small shop that I do have," Martha Whitney-Butler, Owner of French Potager on Main Street.
However the merchants are not letting what they call a 'hospitable customer gesture' go without a fight.
"Working on possible legislation to make an exception for this area. As I understand it there are several communities in Mississippi that are trying to do this," said Alford.
Most shop owners say it's to early to tell what impact the issue will have on the financially important Second Saturday event.
State Representative David Baria, along with the Hancock County Tourism Bureau, are researching state laws to see if an exemption is possible for the merchants.