Rolling Hills to reopen

The Panola County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 Monday to allow Fred Daughtery to reopen his popular Rolling Hills Lodge on Hwy. 315 E., between Sardis and the John Kyle State Park.

Longtime owner Fred Daugherty has been trying to resume business at the location since January, but has been stymied by the Panola County Land Development Commission, a board that has twice turned down requests for special exemptions.

The most recent rejection was at the Sept. 10 meeting of the commission, when Daugherty told the land development board he needs income because of recent illness. Some of that board was steadfastly against allowing Rolling Hills Lodge to ever open again, and others were sympathetic to Daugherty’s plight, but unwilling to cast a vote that would allow him to open after hearing opposition from members of Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church, who have long complained about the juke joint style club operating close to the church.

Daugherty ran the bar successfully for 22 years before closing the doors several years ago because of heart problems. His business is 430 feet from the church’s property line. State law says that no alcohol can be sold within 400 feet of a place of worship.

Daugherty said he only decided to reopen when he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, and began costly chemotherapy treatments. He initially proposed to lease the business to a long time employee, but that plan failed when the land use board rejected him in January, and the Board of Supervisors turned down his appeal.

This week, though, Daugherty himself appeared before the supervisors asking to appeal the September decision. When board members heard that Daugherty would personally be at the bar during business hours, they were more inclined to overrule the lower board.

Additionally, Sheriff Dennis Darby was asked for his opinion on the matter before a vote was taken. Darby said he had known the Rolling Hills owner for many years and had a good relationship. He also said he fully understood the position of the church members.

Darby told the supervisors that his department will stay neutral on such matters, and continue to enforce all laws in all parts of the county no matter what business- es are allowed to open.

Board president Cole Flint said again he doesn’t believe the operation of the business, or any legal business, is the board’s concern so long as they are run in a lawful manner. Daugherty said he understood the county’s position, and will operate within the guidelines set forth by the State of Mississippi’s Alcohol and Beverage Control division.

Supervisor James Birge made the motion to overturn the Land Commission’s decision, it was seconded by Flint, and John Thomas voted yea. Supervisors Donald Phelps and Vernice Avant voted nay, and the motion carried 3-2.

Daugherty indicated he will open immediately with the special exception granted, and said his hours are tentatively 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Fridays, and 6 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Saturdays. A special exception was necessary to reopen because the business had been closed for more than three months.