Vicksburg discusses alcohol on public properties

Outdoor seating at downtown Vicksburg’s Village Hide-A-Way.

By Rob Peterson

New state legislation that would allow alcoholic drinks to be served on public property was described to the Vicksburg Village Council by Manager Jim Mallery.

The legislation, which became law July 1, gives a municipality the authority to create a social district where patrons are allowed to consume drinks purchased from a local bar, restaurant or brewery. The law is intended to provide more space for social distancing and help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Vicksburg could, for example, designate a site downtown “commons area” where patrons could carry alcoholic drinks from an establishment into a space shared with other businesses. Currently, each establishment must have its own fenced-off outdoor space for serving alcohol.

The law requires that the municipality have a management and maintenance plan, including hours of operation and clearly marked signage that defines the common area. The legislation is open as to how large the area may be, but it must be adjacent to at least two restaurants, bars or breweries.

The drinks must be in plastic containers clearly marked with both the name of the common area and the establishment that sold the drink. The drinks may not leave the common area, nor are they allowed in another restaurant, bar or brewery.

Director of Community Engagement Alex Lee indicated that the staff is researching other communities that have created similar districts. “When we have carefully reviewed all these inputs, have business support, and have a workable plan, we will present to the council for additional review and input,” he said.

In other action, the Village Council approved event requests at the Pavilion including Harvest Fest, which is currently still scheduled for Sunday, September 27.

Mallery updated the Council on the sale of excess village-owned property on TU Avenue. The property was originally purchased by the village as part of a larger tract for the trail extension, but only a portion of the original tract was required for the trail.

The Council supported staff in its efforts to apply for federal funds as part of the CARES economic assistance act. Mallery indicated that he is still looking into allowable uses of the funds, but its purpose is to assist with payroll for essential employees such as police and Department of Public Works staff.

Mallery also updated the Council on the new public parking lot on Kalamazoo Avenue, adjacent to the post office. The Village has installed solar lights and has plans for bike racks and “free parking” signs. There will be a ribbon cutting, but no date has been set.

Council member Adams commented on the need for two additional Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee members. He reminded attendees that July 22 was the last day one can apply to run for office in the fall election.

Council members took a moment to remember active community member Bob Merrill, who passed away recently.

Attendee Jackie Koney expressed gratitude to Village staff for allowing local businesses to adapt to social distance requirements due to Covid-19. Staff provided “curbside pickup” locations for businesses and made arrangements for village-owned picnic tables to be used in outdoor service areas.

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