Tuesday, September 22, 2020

UPDATE: Oxford Stores Preparing for Cold Beer

Room being cleared for beer at James Food Center on Jackson Avenue
Room being made for cold beer at James Food Center on Jackson Avenue

In 1972, Oxford passed an ordinance that allowed for the sale of beer in retail locations for the first time since all beer and alcohol sales were outlawed after World War II, but the beer could not be refrigerated. The ban included a prohibition on Sunday sales of all alcohol in the city limits.

On August 20, 2013, with a 6-1 vote by the Oxford Board of Alderman, the law was swept away. Beginning Thursday September 19, cold beer will be available in retail locations with added Sunday sales in retail locations from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. The current rules still apply to restaurants, with Sunday sales only on special occasions and holidays.

Business owners in Oxford, particularly in convenient stores, have been rearranging their stores in preparation for providing Oxford residents with their cold alcoholic beverages (see photo above).

Many stores are preparing for the positive, and even negative, impacts of the new cold beer ordinance set to take effect this Thursday. For many the idea has been both controversial and welcomed. Some feel that cold beer will negatively affect smaller mom-and-pop businesses, while bigger businesses laud the idea of increasing revenue.

While it will be a convenience for many Oxonians that would traditionally drive to a neighboring county to get cold beer, these sales may potentially be hurting some smaller convenience stores since many of them don’t have the space necessary to accommodate refrigerated beer. Some local businesses are coming up with alternatives, such as moving soft drinks out of the way to make room or buying cooling units- which can be costly.

Amy Donnely, the owner of Bikini Beer, is excited and well prepared for the cold beer sales. She believes that while that the ordinance will probably have a negative impact on some smaller businesses in the Oxford area, the increase in revenue should make up for any unwanted initial investments.

“We plan on carrying a special selection of cold beer in coolers,” Donnely said in an interview. “It’s going to hurt the little guys here in Oxford, but we will probably just experience a loss in ice sales.”

Other local businesses, such as Joe’s Craft Beer, are excited about the cold beer sales coming to Oxford. Andrew Cosgray, a weekend worker at Joe’s Craft Beer, stated that they’re anticipating the upcoming changes.

“We have already gotten our coolers in and we are more than ready to begin selling cold beer,” Cosgray said.

Joe’s Craft Beer recently purchased cooler units at a costly $3,000 a piece in preparation for the upcoming cold beer ordinance. They’re hoping that the investment, as steep as it is, will return an increase in revenue.

“We expect our sales to go up some, and we are excited about making cold beer available to our customers,” said owner Joey Vaughan. “In the past we’ve had customers walk out of our store because we didn’t sell cold beer, and we’re excited that will no longer be the case.”

While stores inside the Lafayette County line are excited about cold beer sales and the revenue it will bring, some less-local businesses aren’t sharing the optimism.

Unfortunately, a couple of those businesses may suffer more than others.

Betty Davis Grocery and BBQ and Walkers County Line have been selling cold beer, as well as beer on Sundays, for years. Since both businesses are right outside the Lafayette County line, it seems they have more revenue at stake regarding the new ordinance than most.

When contacted, a representative of Betty Davis Grocery and BBQ declined to comment on the effects the new ordinance may have on their sales.

When posed the same question, a representative of Walkers County Line store stated, “It is what it is, and I worry about the things that I can control, and this is just something I can’t.”

With the kickoff of cold beer sales coming in the following days, smaller businesses will be playing the waiting game to see how, or if, this will affect them.

Better Brands Distributing Company stocking Oxford Brewing Co.'s Mississippi Pale Ale at James Food Center.
Better Brands Distributing Company stocking Oxford Brewing Co.’s Mississippi Pale Ale at James Food Center.

– Sha’ Simpson, Senior Print Journalism Major, smsimpso@go.olemiss.edu