Wednesday bar owners and employees gathered at the steps of Biloxi City Hall to speak out against the city’s late night alcohol sales restrictions.
Skal Axe Throwing opened their doors in Biloxi on January 24th, 2020 only to have to close their doors in March for eight weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. When bars and restaurants were finally able to reopen, Skal was not. The business was considered entertainment under the statewide mandate like the casinos. Skal Axe Throwing Owner Daniel McNatt said, “We made a transition and hired staff for overnight bar service in order to try and keep our bills paid and lights on.”
Biloxi bars and restaurants are currently mandated by the city to stop selling, serving, or distributing alcohol between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Biloxi Mayor Andrew ‘FoFo’ Gilich said, “But the Governor has indicated that the close contact of the bars in operation is counterproductive to what we’re trying to do and that’s shut this virus down.”
For bar employees with late night shifts like Vanessa Aucoin, the city’s mandate has taken a toll on their livelihoods. “It’s taken my entire shift away. I work 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. and now that’s gone, So, um, basically for the last two weeks I haven’t had an income at all.”
Reportedly, the Mississippi Gaming Commission has instructed all casinos to follow the executive order Governor Tate Reeves issued in regards to bars and restaurants. However the casino floor is not a bar or restaurant. Skal Late night Barback Jerod Campbell said, “It’s definitely affected me now because I’m out of work because of this and, you know, meanwhile, the casinos are allowed to do exactly what we were doing and they’re staying open and the rest of us, like me and Vanessa are out of work now because of this and it’s just not fair.”
The mayor’s executive order when into effect on August 5th and will remain in effect until August 17th unless there is an extension. Mayor Gilich said, “The night scene is something we want to return to normal this just happens to be, you know, an obstacle or thorn to get back to normal.”