Senatobia Passes Alcohol Ballot

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(Senatobia, MS) Residents within the city limits of Senatobia voted to allow alcohol sales Tuesday night, defeating opponents by almost a 3-1 margin.

In a preliminary count, 1,207 voters approved the sale of hard liquor, while 412 voters opposed.

1,158 voters approved the sale of light wine and beer, while 425 voters opposed.

100 affidavit ballots were not yet counted.

The election was the first of its kind, since counties have historically held elections to decide whether to allow alcohol. Several Tate County elections in the past failed to pass similar measures.

In 2012, a new law in Mississippi allowed for cities of a certain size to decide whether they would like to serve alcohol. That prompted a group of about 20 citizens to gather the signatures necessary for a city vote.

Rev. Tyrone Catchings has worked to help the group called "Senatobia for a Vote." He has even used vans from his business, Big T's Limos, to pick up elderly voters who may need a ride.

"A change would bring better jobs, industries to our people," Catchings said.

The mayor of Senatobia, Alan Callicott, had not taken one side or the other. He would only say that he prefers keeping tax dollars at home.

"It's important for us to keep dollars at home, whether it's food dollars, or whether that be lawn mowers or washing machines, or anything that you might buy. We'd like for you to buy them here in town," Callicott said.

But opponents do not believe alcohol sales would help the local economy. Mary Lynn McLaughlin said other counties with serious money problems all serve alcohol. More importantly, she's concerned about young people, like her 14-year-old daughter.

"I can't make decisions for them, but by cracky, I can give them a great home to come home to," McLaughlin said.

She worried that with alcohol would come more police, more DUIs, and more accidents.

The chief of police, Steve Holts, told News Channel 3 he does not believe the introduction of alcohol would create more work for his officers.

But McLaughlin, who said she's a licensed counselor, continues to hope for a dry community.

"I have worked at three alcohol and drug facilities. I have seen more than I ever want to see. From divorce, to abuse, to people who say they're "social drinkers". You cannot become alcoholic by not drinking."

Rev. Catchings countered that by saying that having some beer available down the street does not cause people to make poor decisions.

People, especially children, he said, make decisions based on how their parents raised them.

"We raise our kids the best that we can. And we know when our kids are not around us, they're going to do what they're going to do. We just pray the things that we have taught them, they do the right manner. And do the right judgment," Catchings said.

Mayor Callicott said that either way, their city will still be a strong community.

"We're a great place to live. With it or without it," Callicott said.