Open container public forum set

Downtown Hattiesburg residents and business owners will have the opportunity to discuss the possibility of creating a leisure and recreation district in the downtown area, allowing open containers of alcoholic beverages and wine.

The open forum, which is sponsored by the Historic Hattiesburg Downtown Association, will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 24, on the second floor of the Cultural Center.

HHDA Executive Director Andrea Saffle said the possible ordinance would allow “go cups” in the downtown area.

“The Downtown Association wants to hear from the people involved,” she said. “We want to have an open discussion with stakeholders and residents of downtown to make sure that they fully understand what this proposed ordinance would and would not allow, as well as hear all concerns and answer any questions.”

Saffle has been working with Hattiesburg Councilwomen Deborah Delgado of Ward 2 and Mary Dryden of Ward 4 on a possible ordinance. A bill that was signed in the 2016 Legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant went into effect July 1, 2016, allowing Hattiesburg to create a leisure and recreation district.

Dryden said a lot of work has been done to develop an ordinance for the district.

“I am very thankful that Mrs. Saffle set that meeting up,” she said. “ I just want to make sure that we have public input on it. There are too many potential issues that could come up, for instance, litter. We just have to look at it carefully because we want to get it right, we want it to be successful so we are trying to be careful about it and where we do it. It could be a really good thing.”

The law that allows Hattiesburg to create a leisure and recreation district says anyone can have an open container of alcoholic beverage or wine outside of the business that sold the drink as long as that person is within the boundaries of the leisure and recreation district. Dryden said making sure the ordinance is written correctly so that it can be enforced correctly.

“We’ve got to know that the rules that we have are enforceable,” she said. “Andrea Saffle and I met with the police chief, fire chief and the assistants to talk about potential issues. We have to make sure that we protect the safety of our citizens. Safety always comes first.”