What is purpose of new open container zone?

Published 12:43 am Sunday, June 4, 2017

First let me say that I do not know the laws of the State of Mississippi when it comes to open containers of alcoholic beverages on public streets, so if this is overly simplistic, please forgive me.

That being said, as a Miss-Lou visitor for 25 years and resident of Vidalia for nine years, I question the need for any alcohol open container law on the public streets in Mississippi and especially Natchez. I have seen many people in the past 25 years, including me, carry an open container of beer or other alcoholic beverage on the streets of Natchez. I was never bothered and probably others were not either.

Prior to any ordinance or law being adopted or in this case a “zone,” there should be clear intent as to the purpose of the ordinance or law. Otherwise, why have the law? I will admit that I have not been privy to any discussions by the city officials or the business people. I only see what I read in the paper and I really don’t know the intent.

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What is the intent of this proposed ordinance and “open container zone”? Is it to limit the open consumption of alcohol because of religious reasons? Is it to limit trash and littering of the streets? Or is it to control and avoid obnoxious and unruly behavior? If it is for religious reasons, that idea has been passe’ since prohibition. We know from history how well that worked. People are going to drink. Is it to limit trash and littering? If that is the case, laws are already on the books. Why not just increase the fines and enforce it more strictly? If it is to control obnoxious behavior, laws are already on the books to control disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, lewd and obscene behavior, etc. Just enforce the law.

In my 25 years here, I have walked the streets with family and friends and have never had a real problem. Only in recent months have I been advised, by signs on the property, that alcohol was not allowed beyond the businesses’ doors. Believe me, if a person wants to slip out with a beverage, he or she will do it.

Not allowing people to carry out their beverages only encourages people to “guzzle down” the last drink before heading to another location. If I want to bring my visiting family or friends to a local establishment and have a quick bite and a drink and to mosey on to the next location, we should not have to consume the entire drink before we leave. Reasonable restrictions on glass bottles and containers are one thing, but having each establishment have his or her own color coded stickers on containers is another thing and pretty farfetched and unnecessary.

If the city board of alderman insist on establishing any “zone” other than one that includes the entire city, it should reach out as far as possible from the downtown area to include as many bed and breakfasts which are in walking distance from downtown. As for me, I believe our “keepers of the peace in uniform” provide more valuable service in fighting real crime than chasing down locals and visitors who are simply enjoying the city. Here’s to ya!
Kevin M. Friloux

Vidalia resident