By Alyssa Schnugg
The Oxford Board of Aldermen approved a resolution Tuesday asking State Legislators to allow bars and restaurants in the downtown area to remain open until 2 a.m.; however, it would not extend the hours alcohol is sold.
With “last call” at about 15 minutes before businesses close their doors, local law enforcement officials say customers are quickly downing their drinks and are all exiting onto the Square at the same time, causing large crowds to gather on the street.
The Board is asking the legislators to create a local and private bill distinguishing between “sales” and “consumption,” which would allow the downtown businesses to stop serving alcohol at 1 a.m., but remain open for another hour to let people finish their drinks more slowly, perhaps order some food and allow people to leave the business at different times.
“It’s a safety issue,” said Mayor Robyn Tannehill.
Restaurants may serve alcohol until 1 a.m. Monday-Saturday and until 9 p.m. on Sundays.
The resolution states: “the extension of on-premise consumption hours will eliminate the mass exodus of patrons exiting restaurants that serve alcohol by allowing the patrons to consume their beverages over an extended period of time, thereby reducing problems associated with congestion and overcrowding on the city streets outside those establishments.”
Aldermen John Morgan asked if this would require bars to remain open until 2 a.m. or if it would be elective.
City Attorney Pope Mallette said the resolution only asks for the State Legislators to create the local and private bill—which allows a local government to create laws that sometimes differ with state laws—and if that happens, the Aldermen will then vote on the ordinance to change the local law.
“You will still have some decisions to make, like whether it would be mandatory or optional,” he told the Aldermen.
Before the ordinance would go into law, the Aldermen would be required by state law to have at least two readings with one being a public hearing. Oxford’s policy is to generally have three readings before an ordinance is changed or created with the second being the public hearing and then voting after the third reading.
Also on Tuesday, the Board approved another resolution asking the Mississippi Alcohol Beverage Control Commissioner for permission to extend alcohol sales on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. The change would only be for Feb. 3.