- Associated Press - Sunday, February 16, 2014

TAYLOR, Miss. (AP) - With its budding residential spaces and a new wedding venue, the Plein Air development wants to attract more restaurants as well as more wedding parties to the area by getting the resort status designation it needs to sell alcohol on premises.

“Resort status would help Plein Air to become what we’ve always envisioned,” said Campbell McCool, developer of the Plein Air project. “It would become a true town square with restaurants and shops. This would be a big step forward.”

Since Plein Air was first established in Taylor in 2007, it has developed 21 houses and has plans for dozens more. The project has had two restaurants within its town square building, but one was recently converted into a wedding venue called The Mill.

“Most of our residents at Plein Air that I’ve spoken with are very supportive,” McCool said of his efforts to get the project resort status. “We wouldn’t allow anything that is detrimental to the neighborhood.”

The effort to get the project a resort status designation has been in the works since the beginning, McCool said. Plans call for the Plein Air area to have more residential units, restaurants, a grocery store, art galleries and other attractive elements.

However, for the commercial district to survive and thrive, McCool said business operators need to have the option to sell alcohol.

“We’ve had several restaurants interested in coming here in our eight-year history,” McCool said. “The first question they ask is if we can sell alcohol. Right now, anyone in Taylor could apply for a liquor license, but a resort license allows for liquor, wine and beer to be sold. We have lost several restaurants in the past and one of the primary reasons is their inability to serve alcohol. That is one of their key sources of revenue.”

When the Taylor Board of Aldermen held a discussion two years ago on whether Plein Air should get resort status, the initiative was met with a mixed response; some residents were for it and some were against it.

The idea of granting resort status to Plein Air still has some who favor the idea, and others who don’t.

“Lafayette County has two (resort status businesses) already, so why do we need another, especially when one isn’t but 10 minutes away?” Taylor resident Mark Stone said. “How will this impact the community and how will they police the alcohol?”

Plein Air resident Risa Darby said she supports the initiative.

“I think it will really help the town and give not only residents in Plein Air but in all of Taylor more places to go to eat because it will bring restaurants,” Darby said. “It would also be good tax-wise for the town. I know it’s not going to bring in any wild, all-night bars. Several people who I’ve talked to are for it.”

Alice Hammell, the owner of Tin Pan Alley, also sees the advantages of Plein Air getting resort status.

“We ate at the restaurants in Plein Air all the time when they were here,” said Hammell, who noted that customers can already bring their own wine to established restaurants in the area, such as Taylor Grocery.

“This could bring more restaurants and business to Taylor. I don’t think it would be obtrusive to the neighbors at all.”

The ability to serve alcohol in Taylor would essentially mark a return to the days when the small town was wet decades ago. At one point in 1878, Taylor had three saloons along with numerous other shops when it was a bustling railroad town.

After the end of prohibition, alcohol sales in Taylor were never deemed legal, but possessing alcohol is.

Right now, wedding parties may bring their own alcohol to The Mill, but the venue can’t provide them with a cash bar or include any alcohol in its various packages to its customers.

Although resort status allows for alcohol sales at all times and on all days, McCool said restrictions would limit alcohol sales between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight, and no sales would be allowed on Sundays.

“It’s important to me to let people know that we’re not interested in opening juke joints or having boisterous activity,” McCool said. “This is to enhance our wedding facilities and to bring restaurants to the town square. We are very family oriented.”

While McCool has applied for resort status, McCool said the process for gaining resort status is a lengthy one. The required legal notice has been published, but several more approvals are needed.

For instance, he must acquire a resolution from the Taylor Board of Aldermen as well as get assurance from local law enforcement agencies that the Local Option Beverage Control Laws of Mississippi and its rules and regulations will be enforced. Resort status also has to be approved by the state.


Information from: Oxford Eagle, https://www.oxfordeagle.com

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