- story and photo by Grace Birch
State Rep. David Baria (D) recently co-sponsored the legislation with fellow official Scott DeLano (R). This bill authorizes municipalities to establish leisure and recreation districts. The bill passed the House and Senate and is sitting on the Governor's desk awaiting a signature to be signed into a law.
"Originally, it was just Biloxi and Bay St. Louis, but other cities have jumped on board with this idea,” Baria said.
So what does that mean? After the Governor gives final approval, Mississippi cities can create one or more leisure and recreation districts where patrons would be able to buy an alcoholic drink from a permitted vendor and take that drink in and out of the restaurant or business and onto the street or into other businesses as long as it's in the designated district.
The City Council decides the boundaries of the district and is looking for input from business owners and the public.
Once the City Council ordinance is passed, the City must submit a plan for safety and services (for example, trash remediation) within the districts to the State for final approval.
Wendy McDonald, Councilwoman for Ward 2, says this will be an agenda item on the next City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 3 at 5:30 p.m.
McDonald says the new districts may include the Main Street and Depot District commercial areas. She also says she is very sensitive to the concerns of homeowners, churches and schools who are located near the proposed districts.
McDonald is welcoming and encouraging feedback about the map boundaries, questions about this new district. Citizens should email comments to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. The public is also invited to attend the city council meeting on Tuesday, May 3 at 5:30 p.m.
Overall the proposal was well received by Old Town business owners, and the mood of the meeting was light.
"This bill is bigger than just Bay St. Louis," said Janice Guido, president of the Old Town Merchants Association. “Being familiar with Natchez and different Mississippi resort cities, it seems to me we would all benefit from allowing our visitors to dine and shop, taking their beverage from one venue to another."
"From a storeowner’s viewpoint, I want customers to be happy and comfortable, and from a city standpoint I understand the importance of providing proper security and trash services and to make sure this privilege would not be abused. Anything that keeps retail alive and thriving in Bay St. Louis is important."