A review of occurrences in Yalobusha during 2007 would not be complete without summarizing the events leading up to beer election held on December 11. The December election was the first time in 31 years that beer had landed on a ballot in the county.
The issue first appeared in the Herald pages in mid-summer, when members of the Yalobusha Progressive Association (YPA) advertised booths set up across the county seeking signatures from county voters.
After almost a year of gathering signatures, a three-inch stack of papers with Yalobusha signatures petitioning for an election was presented to supervisors on September 4. The petition was presented by Oxford attorney Andy Arant, who had been hired by the YPA.
Just three days later, Yalobusha Circuit Clerk Daryl Burney presented the petition back to supervisors after certifying that 2,312 registered voters had signed the petition.
The number was above the benchmark, 20 percent of the registered voters, and a special supervisor meeting was called on September 14 to set an election date.
In a controversial decision, supervisors voted 3-2 to have the referendum on December 11. YPA organizers had hoped for the matter to land on the November 6 general election ballot.
Intense politicking followed in the weeks leading up to the election and almost 42 percent of the county’s registered voters turned out to participate in the election.
With almost a two-to-one margin, voters favored legalizing beer, reversing a seven decade ban on beer and light wine.
Less than a week later, beer trucks flowed into Water Valley, as several businesses obtained temporary permits from the State Tax Commission to sell the product.
City and county officials then scrambled to enact local ordinances regulating the sale. Water Valley Aldermen were the first to act, passing an ordinance on December 18 including language stating no beer or light wine shall be sold for on-premises consumption within 250 feet of the property line of any church or school property functioning as a church, school, or child care facility and adjacent parking. The city ordinance also requires beer to be sold hot, unless in a restaurant for on-premises consumption.
The ordinance also contained distance restrictions, spelling out that beer or light wine sold for off-premises consumption cannot be within 100 feet of the property line of any church or school property functioning as a church, school or child care facility and parking lots adjacent to these facilities. The ordinance will take effect this January.
County officials were quick to follow, – just a day later in a recessed meeting – supervisors voted unanimously to place additional restrictions on the sale of beer and light wine in the county beyond those imposed by the state.
The county regulations also required beer to be sold hot, unless in a restaurant setting, and contained distance requirements.