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City of Natchez hosting “go-cup zone” public forum

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez is hosting a forum Friday for public input on the efforts to establish a “go-cup zone” downtown for alcoholic beverages.

The meeting will be at 9 a.m. Friday in the Natchez City Council Chambers.

City Planner Riccardo Giani, who is coordinating the efforts with Tourism Director Jennifer Ogden Combs, said the goal is to allow residents and business owners the opportunity to ask questions and voice opinions about the ordinance to establish a leisure and recreation district.

The Mississippi Legislature passed a bill earlier this year expanding last year’s law that allowed the designation of leisure and recreation districts where open containers sold by certain businesses would be permitted off premises. The expanded bill includes Natchez and other cities.

The bill was signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in April and will go into effect July 1.

Giani and Combs are working to draft an ordinance with rules and regulations as it relates to the go-cup law and create a map of the boundaries of the leisure and recreation district.

“The purpose of the new go-cup ordinance is to enhance tourism and drive economic development downtown,” Giani said. “Mayor (Darryl) Grennell wants to hear from the public, especially the downtown community, as to whether the zone should be concentrated closer to the riverfront or should encompass a larger swath of downtown.”

The city has received help in planning to create the leisure and recreation district, Giani said, from Ocean Springs, which was included in the first round of cities approved for the go-cup zones in 2016.   

The ordinance and map would need to be approved by the board of aldermen then sent to the Mississippi Department of Revenue for final approval.

At the request of Giani, the Natchez Board of Aldermen adopted policy guidelines for the development of the boundaries and regulations at Tuesday’s board of aldermen meeting, the board.

The guidelines are:

4Focus on tourists and tourism as part of an economic development strategy.

4Strengthen the historic preservation industry by encouraging economically viable uses for historic buildings.

4Focus on areas with an existing and/or potential critical mass of bars and restaurants.

4Give careful consideration to the concerns of residents and non-restaurant/bar businesses that are already invested in the area.

4Avoid areas with existing and/or potential substantial housing.

Giani said city officials hope to have the leisure and recreation district established and approved by July 1 when the law takes effect. The tentative schedule is to adopt the ordinance and go-cup zone boundaries at the June 13 aldermen meeting.