Hattie’s Hippo is hopping again
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 00:09
After a long awaited 456 days, Hattiesburg’s favorite watering hole, The Thirsty Hippo, re-opened its doors to an eager fan base on Aug. 27 at its new location on McLeod Street.
After a successful 11 year run at the bar’s old location downtown on Main Street, owners Brad and Sarah Newton felt it was time for something new.
“We just wanted to do more with the business,” venue owner Brad Newton said. “We had been doing the same thing for so long, for eleven years, with no real changes.”
With big plans for the bar’s future, the Hippo’s old location was not going to cut it.
Still in the beginning stages of what the owners have in mind for the future of the bar, they have already accomplished one of their goals, which was to bring more choice and variety to patrons.
“Not that there is anything wrong with what we were doing before, which was soft drinks, beer, water and music,” Newton said. “We just wanted to be able to do more for people, grow the business in that direction and make it an even better environment.”
Ready to move away from serving just soda pop and garden-variety beer, the Hippo now has a full kitchen and a full menu, including liquor.
According to the Alcoholic Beverage and Control Division of the Mississippi Department of Revenue, applicants must deal with a plethora of hurdles, such as “providing floor plans showing locations for storage, preparation and serving of alcohol,” one qualification they must meet to serve liquor is to have a menu and be a food vendor.
Obtaining a liquor license was not the biggest problem faced while trying to re-open at the new location, however. According to city ordinances in Hattiesburg, if there is not sufficient public parking available, a business is required to provide its own. If the parking lot is not connected to the property that the business sits on, like in the Hippo’s case, then a “use-permit” must be obtained.
Even with the community fully backing the bar, there was at least one man that held up progress in letting Hattiesburg have its Hippo back. Local attorney and now the Thirsty Hippo’s newest neighbor, John Lee, appealed the plans for the parking lot. The community also came together in support of The Thirsty Hippo.
A report by WDAM said that more than 200 people came out to the Jackie Dole Sherrill Community Center in support of The Thirsty Hippo for a public hearing on March 19 that was abruptly cancelled after the two parties met. The Hippo was then granted its permit.
“I knew being a lawyer 44 years that if we had started this public hearing that probably the chances of reconciling our differences were very remote,” Lee said. “I look forward to having the Newtons and The Thirsty Hippo across the street from my law office.”
After a long battle, The Thirsty Hippo is finally back. A post on the Thirsty Hippo’s Facebook fan page read, “Thanks for a great first week everyone... we are happy to be back and look forward to many great weeks (and years) ahead. And thanks again for helping us each step of the way. We couldn’t have reached this point without you... what a great community we live in.”
Likewise, the feelings of gratitude are reciprocated from the community.
“I’m so happy The Hippo is back,” longtime fan of the bar Stephen Carol said. “The first time I ever came to Hattiesburg almost twelve years ago, I went to The Hippo and instantly loved it. I’m excited about the new place.”