By Alyssa Schnugg
The Oxford Board of Aldermen voted to limit social indoor gatherings back down to 10 people if social distancing is not possible and 20 where it is.
The vote took place before a budget meeting on Monday morning where the mayor and aldermen discussed a variety of COVID-19-related issues in trying to battle the recent spike of cases.
The step-back only affects indoor social gatherings, like house parties, and not outdoor gatherings, which is limited to 50, or restaurants, which is based on occupancy.
Last week, the board discussed upping the enforcement of the city’s ordinances and closing restaurants that are issued a citation for 24 hours, or one business day. However, Mayor Robyn Tannehill said after further review, there were some legal issues in implementing such a law.
City Attorney Pope Mallette said he has “concerns” about the proposed plan.
“Businesses are entitled to some due process before a business is closed,” Mallette said. “I think it’s problematic based on a citation alone, to close a business down.”
The board decided to not take up the proposed sanctions for businesses.
Alderman Janice Antonow made a motion to close restaurants and bars at 10 p.m. She said as people drink, it will become increasingly harder for employees to enforce social distancing and face coverings.
The vote was 3 to 3 and Tannehill voted against the motion, breaking the tie.
Those voting in favor of closing restaurants at 10 p.m. were aldermen Janice Antonow, Preston Taylor and Kesha Howell Atkinson. Those voting against closing at 10 p.m. were aldermen John Morgan, Mark Huelse and Jason Bailey. Alderman Rick Addy was not present at the meeting.
The aldermen voting against the motion said they felt that closing early would push students out to house parties where social distancing cannot be enforced.
Oxford Police Chief Jeff McCutchen reported that OPD conducted 270 business checks in the last week and issued seven citations. McCutchen said the citations were mostly issued to employees not correctly wearing masks and that no citations were given to restaurants and bar owners/managers for not enforcing social distancing or face coverings.
The Board also voted to remove the requirement for servers and hosts to wear gloves, as studies show that the gloves can actually increase the spread of the virus and that hand washing and using hand sanitizer is the preferred method. Cooks and food preps must still wear gloves.