New downtown restaurant greenlighted
The addition of a new restaurant in Senatobia’s Historical District is closer to becoming reality after aldermen agreed to rezone a downtown property, upholding a decision by the city’s planning commission in June.
Hudson Chadwick, who owns Rafters Music & Food in Oxford and New Albany as well as Rafters on the Water in Sardis, is interested in purchasing the building at 105 College Street next to the railroad tracks and adding a fourth restaurant to his chain in Senatobia. The transaction hinged on the property being rezoned from Government to B-3 or Central Business District Commercial.
City leaders held a public hearing Tuesday, July 20, to give citizens a chance to sound off before the rezoning was approved by a 4-1 vote.
“I am very much in support of Rafters coming to Senatobia. I want our Main Street to thrive and grow,” said Miriam Rowan. “I would love to see a new restaurant and another nice place to have lunch downtown. My great-grandad once owned that building and I really want to see a nice establishment on that corner.”
Aldermen have been trying to decide what to do with the city-owned building at 105 College Street since the Senatobia School District stopped using as it as a school bus maintenance shop after constructing a 3,900 square foot facility at its Optional Learning Center on West Gilmore in 2019.
The Senatobia Planning Commission unanimously agreed to rezone the site at a meeting Monday, June 21, putting the decision to uphold or reject its vote in the hands of aldermen.
The City of Senatobia purchased the building and the seven tenths of an acre it sits on in 1989 from Robert Morris Jr., supervisor of Morris Oil Company. The property served as a base of operations for the city’s public works department for several years.
According to records at the Tate County Tax Collector’s Office, the structure was built in 1890 and originally housed Smith-Gabbert Company before the business eventually became Gabbert Oil Company.
Several residents of College Street and other Senatobia citizens have been vocal about the location of the proposed restaurant that plans to offer alcohol to its patrons, claiming it’s too close to Senatobia school property and the sixth-grade building located right next door.
Other complaints regarding the site include lack of parking, live outdoor and piped-in music affecting the tranquility of surrounding neighborhoods, as well as possible environmental issues.
“I am very much against this restaurant with its beer and music being that close to our school,” said Joe Cooper. “It will be too much noise and too much racket for teachers to teach our kids.”
Aldermen unanimously agreed in May to amend the city’s ordinance concerning the sale and consumption of alcohol to match state regulations as described in House Bill 572 which was signed by Gov. Tate Reeves earlier this year after it passed the Mississippi Legislature.
An amendment to Section 67-1-51 to the Mississippi Code of 1972 revises the definition of “qualified resort area” under the Local Option Alcoholic Beverage Control Law. It lifts restrictions on the manufacture, sale or storage of intoxicating liquors within certain distances of churches, schools and funeral homes, including properties at 105 College Street and another at the corner of Ward and Tate Streets in Senatobia.
Previously, Senatobia’s ordinance banned the sale and consumption of alcohol within a minimum of 100 feet of churches, schools and funeral homes in commercial and industrial zones and 200 feet in other sections of the city.
“Almost every time we face an issue of rezoning, nobody wants their area to change. That’s just human nature,” said Alderman Larry Simpson, who supports Rafters plan to come to Senatobia. “People always tell us they are for growth, just don’t grow here. One of the biggest concerns of our citizens is adding nice restaurants. We have some, but we need more. Downtown Senatobia is changing for the good. This restaurant will be a great addition.”