Little Black seeking resort area status for alcohol

By HASKEL BURNS,

A park and campground in Lamar County is seeking a special “resort area” status from the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s Alcoholic Beverage Control that would allow the sale and consumption of alcohol on park grounds.

On a Feb. 13 Facebook post, Little Black Creek Campground and Park co-owner Paul Nettles said he was 40 signatures away from being able to file a petition for resort status, and encouraged registered Lamar County voters to come to the park office to sign the petition.

The issue was first raised last year at a meeting of the Lamar County Board of Supervisors by Rae Turner, attorney for the campground. Turner said because Lamar County is designated as a dry county – making it illegal to possess, consume or sell alcohol in the county except for within the city limits of Hattiesburg – the owners of the park are not able to provide a full range of services to their guests.

“One of the things that they provide is catering services for groups who are having events at the park, like weddings and reunions,” he said in a previous story. “At present, because it’s a dry county, they can’t serve any alcoholic beverages or provide them for guests who are coming to these events.

“That creates something of a problem because it means people are bringing alcohol to some of these events, even though it is a dry area. The Nettleses, as operators of the park, have no control over that, but they do have some exposure if injuries occur at the park as a result of intoxication.”

Nettles did not return calls to confirm the number of signatures  he currently has on the petition, but the next step would be to make the request to officials at the ABC. According to one of the provisions of Mississippi code 67-1-5, areas can apply for resort status if the area and its related property consists of at least 8,000 heated and cooled square feet, is used to host events for a fee, and is used for the purpose of culinary arts and/or outdoor recreation and leadership courses.

Rusty Hanna, Chief of Enforcement at the ABC, said he has not yet received a request from Little Black Creek, but if and when he did, ABC officials would visit the site to see if it qualifies for the resort area status.

“They can’t just do the petition - they’ve got to meet one of those requirements (of the code),” he said. “Once we get something, we’ll review it, but I don’t know what direction they’d be going for at a campground. But we’ll see if they meet statutory requirements.”

Currently, there are only three locations in Lamar County that have qualified resort area status: the Canebrake Country Club, Longleaf Plantation and the Barn at Bridlewood. St. Fabian Catholic Church - which is being constructed on Mississippi 589 just north of the Bellegrass subdivision - has also begun efforts to request the status, but Hanna said he has not received anything from the church as of yet.