Gulfport city leaders and the entire Coast legislative delegation were watching anxiously Wednesday as a bill that would allow alcohol on the streets of specially-designated entertainment districts died, then passed, then got caught up in last-minute wrangling.
Under the measure, which applies to any city in the three Coast counties as well as about a dozen others, establishments which hold alcohol permits can allow patrons to leave with open containers of alcohol. Those patrons must remain within the entertainment district.
The bill had died earlier but was reconsidered and passed the House and Senate on Wednesday.
At the end of the day, though, a motion to reconsider was filed by Rep. Bryant Clark, of Pickens. The bill will be taken up again on Thursday.
Passing the bill is particularly important to officials in Gulfport, where the downtown district has been revitalized since Hurricane Katrina. Among its attractions is Fishbone Alley, set to open soon downtown between 26th and 27th avenues, where pedestrians will be able to stroll from one establishment to the next amid vertical landscaping, art, lighting and entertainment.
Sen. Sean Tindell and Rep. Scott DeLano sponsored the bills in the Senate and House. Rep. David Baria is also listed as an additional author.
DeLano's bill limited the measure to the three coastal counties. It has since been amended several times, first to include Hattiesburg and Tupelo, then to add other municipalities.
Gulfport Councilman Rusty Walker said he watched Wednesday as the bill appeared to die, then was revived.
"The entire Coast delegation is for it and today they have all been involved," he said. "We think common sense will prevail. It's the next logical step for revitalizing the downtown district. It's very important that people be allowed, for a walkable downtown, to take drinks from one business to another."