Saturday, July 31, 2021

Rafters and The Annex Get Outdoor Dining Licenses Revoked

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Two restaurants had their ability to provide outdoor dining revoked Tuesday evening after the Oxford Board of Aldermen pulled their licenses that allowed for the use of parking spaces to create extra dining space.

The Annex and Rafter’s Food and Music have both received two citations for allowing customers to stand around while being served alcohol, which is against Gov. Tate Reeves’ Executive Order that states that patrons must be seated inside, and no alcohol can be served to people standing at the bar.

On Oct. 11, the Board announced that it would be reviewing citations issued by the Oxford Police Department for violations of the city’s Serving Oxford Safely Plan and mandates by Gov. Reeves. Currently, the only additional mandate by the city that isn’t included in Reeves’ order is that anyone entering a restaurant must wear a face mask until seated at a table.

The aldermen did not set a number of how many citations a restaurant needed to receive before the license was revoked, but rather, decided to take them on a case-by-case basis.

Rafter’s and The Annex both received their two citations after that Oct. 11 meeting.

OPD Chief Jeff McCutchen presented photos from officers’ body cams showing customers standing inside the restaurant in groups and at the bar.

“There were multiple people standing around and no one (employee/owner) addressing it,” McCutchen said.

Harrison’s, The Library and The Oxford Grillehouse received one citation since the Oct. 11 meeting. The Aldermen did not revoke those licenses but publicly warned that a second citation could result in those restaurants suffering the same fate as Rafters and The Annex.

McCutchen said some of the restaurant owners told him they felt the individuals should receive the citation and not the business.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the city and OPD do not have the manpower to be inside every restaurant, every day, to make sure people are complying with the laws.

“The owners should be managing their own businesses and making sure their patrons comply,” said Alderman Janice Antonow.

After the vote, an attorney representing the two restaurants told the aldermen that the citations are misdemeanor criminal offenses and that the restaurants can fight the citation in court.

“If [the restaurants] could be found not guilty, but still had their licenses revoked,” he said.

City Attorney Pope Mallette reminded the Board of Aldermen that they can choose to revoke the licenses for any reason, at any time since they are allowing the restaurants to use city property.

There was no motion made to reconsider the Board’s vote to revoke the licenses.