Houston, Miss., to allow legal alcohol sales by Labor Day

Houston, Miss., to allow legal alcohol sales by Labor Day

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The state of Mississippi took its sweet time to end prohibition. The United States officially repealed the 18th Amendment in 1933, ending 13 dry years in the U.S., but Mississippi maintained a state-wide alcohol ban until 1966.

Beer Light Wine Map 2019. Image from the Mississippi Department of Revenue.

By default, Mississippi is still dry. State law says that counties and cities must “opt in” to make sales of alcoholic beverages legal. As a result, many Mississippi counties continue prohibition to this day. Six prohibit all alcohol sales: Benton, Choctaw, Prentiss, Smith, Walthall and Webster. Another 26 counties allow alcohol sales in some municipalities and areas. In some of those, only beer and light wine are allowed, while others allow liquor and spirit sales as well.

Houston, Miss., population 3,623 in 2010, joined the wet cities surrounded by dry counties earlier this month, bringing to two the number of cities in Chickasaw County where residents can get a drink. Okolona was first.

Houston held a special election July 9 to decide whether to permit the sale of alcohol within city limits. The votes were 681 to 248 in favor of the sale of beer and light wine, and 661 to 264 in favor of the sale of liquor and spirits, according to the Chickasaw Journal.

“The margin of victory was profound, with over 70 percent voting to end prohibition,” Sean Johnson, director of the Chickasaw Development Foundation told the Chickasaw Journal. “There were a number of reasons this effort was started, but the most fulfilling part of it is knowing that we’ve given the community something that it clearly and overwhelmingly wanted.”

Petitions to force votes on the issue began circulating in Houston’s restaurants a year ago. To succeed, the two petitions (one for beer and light wine and a second for liquor and spirits) each needed 517 valid signatures or 20 percent of Houston’s registered voters.

“First and foremost, the number one reason we are doing this is economics,” Johnson said in 2018. “The cities of New Albany and Pontotoc have seen their portion (of tourism tax revenue) increase between 50 and 46 percent in the hospitality sector.”

The sale of alcohol in Houston is expected to begin on Labor Day weekend, which begins August 31.