Mary C. O'Keefe Center looks to alcohol for financial sustainability

Mary C. O'Keefe Center looks to alcohol for financial sustainability
Mary C. O'Keefe Center looks to alcohol to solve their financial issues. (Photo Source: WLOX News)

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Ocean Springs city leaders looking for a way to bring more money to the Mary C. O'Keefe Center recently suffered a big setback.

"We have a BP grant [that] has ended, so that has about a $50,000 impact on our budget this year," said Nancy Wilson, chair of the Mary C. O'Keefe board of directors. "So being able to sell alcohol here would help us make up the difference."

Center leaders say the answer to their financial struggles is alcohol. However, legislation stands in the way.

A proposed amendment to House Bill 441 that would exempt cultural centers on the historic register from the current alcohol restrictions died in the committee Tuesday.

"As far as that particular bill is concerned, that is dead. Is there some options we can take? Yes we can," said Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran.

Part of that law has to do with proximity to schools. On Wednesday, the Ocean Springs School District will hand over the keys to the Taconi building.

"The legislature is treating it as if it were a school and therefore, the Mary C is too close to the Taconi building," added Moran. 

With head start still going on in the building, Moran says she may have to get creative to meet the requirements.

"I'm not beyond tearing down one of the rooms on the building if we have to, but I'm not getting rid of head start," said Moran.

With additional revenue from alcohol sales, the center says they would be able to host various events such as weddings and conferences, among other things.

"We would be able to offer more programming at the Mary C., from educational programming, to different shows that we bring in, to new art exhibits and gallery exhibits," said Stacy Howell, Executive Director of the Mary C. O'Keefe Center.

The center can currently sell up to 8 percent proof beverages after hours, but they say that's not enough to keep them sustainable.

Copyright 2016 WLOX. All rights reserved.