By Alyssa Schnugg
What started out as a way to help local restaurants thrive during the COVID-19 pandemic has become a permanent part of the Square’s landscape.
As restaurants were allowed to reopen during the pandemic, restrictions were still in place that required tables to be spaced apart, leaving some restaurants with little room for diners. The city of Oxford allowed restaurants to put up temporary outdoor dining to accommodate more diners safely.
Due to the success of outdoor dining, the city implemented the Shared Space Permit and Design Guidelines for downtown businesses to create more permanent outdoor dining options.
The city also created more space on East Jackson Avenue, widening the sidewalks to allow businesses to expand their outdoor dining options and building several planters where pedestrians can sit. Decorative street lamps now line the road as well.
In June 2021, the city approved the new ordinance to create the permitting process for restaurants to be allowed to use outdoor dining. Since then, five restaurants have created outdoor space – Saint Leo, Rafter’s, Bling Pig, Funky’s and The Annex.
Most of those licenses are expiring soon or have expired.
On Tuesday, Special Projects Director Mark Levy asked the Oxford Board of Aldermen to extend all outdoor dining permits to August 2025. The Board voted unanimously to extend the permits.
The next municipal election is in June 2025. The new extended August 2025 date will allow any new Aldermen a couple of months to be on the Board and then the Board will revisit the outdoor dining process and permits and vote on whether to extend at that time.
The city may revoke a license at any time, for any reason. If the licensee wants to terminate the license prior to August 2025, they may request early termination from the city
Any new businesses applying for a permit will have to go through the same approval process which includes applying for a revocable license approved by the mayor and Board of Aldermen before requesting a Shared Space Permit that also must be approved.
Businesses requesting a permit have to submit a design that must adhere to the Design Guidelines.