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Proposed Regulations Could Expand to All Alcohol-Serving Businesses in Oxford

By Alyssa Schnugg
Staff writer

What started out as an idea to create a Downtown District that would require a handful of businesses on the Square to have more security, ID scanners and evacuation plans may now be something all Oxford businesses that sell alcohol may have to follow.

During a four-hour public hearing Monday at the Oxford Conference Center, the Oxford Board of Aldermen were presented with three options to consider:
Option 1: Keeping the ordinance confined to the original borders that only included restaurants on the south-side of Jackson Avenue East to South 10th Street, then proceeding south to the north side of Van Buren Avenue and east along Van Buren Avenue to South Lamar Boulevard.
Option 2: Expand the district for the entire Square – from Chevron to Chevron and from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to City Hall.
Option 3: Include all restaurants serving alcohol inside the city limits.
Alderman Janice Antonow said she was for including the entire downtown Square into the district, but not the entire city – yet.
“The police came to us with specific problems in the downtown area,” Antonow said Monday. “I don’t think they can handle the entire city. It’s too much at once. Maybe later we can expand it to the entire city.”
Alderman Rick Addy said he supported Option 3.
“I hate to put this burden just on the businesses in the downtown area,” he said.
The board seemed split between Option 2 and 3; however, Aldermen John Morgan was not at the hearing. Mayor Robyn Tannehill said if it came down to a tie, she will vote for Option 3.
OPD Chief Joey East said the Square is where most of the problems associated with alcohol, large crowds and underage drinking occur.
“We’re busing kids to the Square,” he said. “We’re not busing them out to West Jackson.”
However, several Square restaurant owners said if the requirements in the ordinance are only for bars and restaurants downtown, it will push the problems off the Square and into other areas if they know they can go somewhere else that isn’t required to use an ID scanner.
Griffin Tanner, the owner of The Levee, said if the ordinance doesn’t include the entire city, businesses will open off the Square, creating a “new Square.”

About 60 people attended the four-hour public hearing at the Oxford Conference Center on the proposed ordinance amendment regarding restaurant and bar regulations. Photo by Alyssa Schnugg.

“If you do this just in Option 1 or 2, that’s going to happen within six months,” he said. 
Tannehill said she agreed the proposed ordinance should include all businesses that sell alcohol, beer and wine city-wide.
“We’re creating a problem if we don’t take in the entire community,” she said.
After much discussion, the board agreed to remove Option 1 and continued to discuss whether the ordinance will cover all of the Square or the entire city.
“There are a ton of businesses who haven’t been paying attention or attending the meetings on this because they didn’t think they had to,” Antonow said.
Rusty Hanna, chief of the Alcohol Beverage Control, attended the hearing Monday to share information about a cellphone app ABC is now using to detect fake Ids. Under the proposed ordinance, anyone serving alcohol will have to scan photo ID cards, or driver’s licenses, using some type of age verification system.
East said he tested the app this past weekend and out of 647 IDs checked, the app caught 148 fake IDs.
Since the ordinance will change it will go back through the approval process, with additional public hearings being planned.
On Tuesday, another public hearing will be held during the Aldermen meeting at 5 p.m. at City Hall.
Read the ordinance here.


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