By Alyssa Schnugg
Last month, the Oxford Board of Aldermen took away the ability for two restaurants to offer outdoor dining after each had been cited twice by the Oxford Police Department for not following the statewide COVID-19 guidelines.
However, when one hand takes away, the other hand can also give it back.
On Tuesday, the Board reversed its previous decision and reinstated the licenses to use public property for outdoor dining to The Annex and Rafter’s Food and Music.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill made the recommendation to the Board to reinstate the licenses and not revoke other licenses moving forward. She said she felt the move punished the citizens of Oxford and visitors and prevented them from being able to eat outdoors.
However, she said businesses will still be monitored and cited if the orders in Gov. Tate Reeve’s Executive Order were not adhered to by the restaurants.
“I think providing an outdoor option to our citizens is important to do,” she said. “We go forward with the information we have in front of us and try to make the best decisions we can and if we think we maybe didn’t make the best one, we go back and fix it.”
Tannehill said that people in the community have donated money toward the license fees for each restaurant, making it free in October and only about $22 for November.
By state law, the city had to have two appraisals done on the parking spaces that are being used for the outdoor dining and then take the average cost of each one and then charge the restaurants that amount. Most restaurants would have had to pay about $388 a month. The outdoor dining licenses expire on Dec. 30; however, Tannehill said the Board will meet soon to discuss how to move forward with keeping outdoor dining an option.
“The citizens have chipped in to make it beneficial for our restaurants,” she said.
Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen reported to the Board Tuesday that only one restaurant received a citation in the last two weeks.
“I think the businesses are doing a good job,” he said. “We’ve had several meetings with businesses. I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen.”
Aldermen Jason Bailey made the motion to reinstate the licenses for The Annex and Rafters with the instruction of keeping their temporary walls no higher than 42 inches, which is what was recommended by the Mississippi Alcohol Bureau Control.
The motion passed unanimously.