Monday, January 18, 2021

Outdoor Dining Could Become Year-Round Option in Oxford

By Alyssa Schnugg
News editor

Outdoor dining could be a year-round, permanent option for Oxford restaurants and their customers.

On Monday, the Oxford Board of Aldermen held a work session meeting where it discussed the possibility of making outdoor dining a permanent option and what that might look like moving forward.

No decisions were made; however, the seven-member board all agreed that making outdoor dining permanent in Oxford was something they wanted to seriously consider.

“I’ve received very positive feedback from restaurants and citizens about the outdoor dining,” said Mayor Robyn Tannehill.

City officials have been working on plans on how to expand the sidewalks, especially on East Jackson Avenue, which the city had already budgeted funds to do before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If we do this year-round, that is going to allow people to invest in their outdoor dining area in a different way than if they have to take it down and put it up again,” Tannehill said.

Tannehill said when the city decided to implement the outdoor dining, it was done quickly to help provide restaurants with extra space as soon as possible.

“I think we learned some lessons, and I think the business owners learned a few lessons,” she said.

The aldermen discussed whether businesses would continue to use the space through a revocable license, a lease, or selling the property. The board decided they would not be for selling the sidewalk area. Aldermen Mark Huelse recommended doing it via four-year leases, which seemed favorable to the board.

The cost of redoing sidewalks is estimated to be about $500,000. Alderman Jason Bailey said he thought it was a bit steep during a time when the city is watching its pennies as a result of less tax money coming in due to the pandemic.

Tannehill said that while the city would regain some of the expenses through the leases with the restaurants who wished to partake in outdoor dining, the other benefits would come through an increase in sales taxes and the standard 2% food and beverage tax.

The aldermen agreed to allow city staff to look at other cities and come up with a plan with the hopes of later scheduling a future work session with restaurant owners to gain their input.