The Oxford Board of Aldermen presented the latest draft of the proposed “Downtown District” ordinance on Tuesday during the ordinance’s fourth public hearing. Aldermen discussed changes that had been made since Monday’s meeting with local business owners.
The latest version of the ordinance proposes that the new safety requirements included will apply “to all businesses in the City” that are required to have a city or state alcohol permit.
“If you’ve got to get a state permit or a local permit to be able to serve beer or light wine or alcoholic beverages in the state, then you are required to abide by this,” city attorney Pope Mallette said. “If you go and get one permit for one night to throw a fraternity party at an empty building somewhere and required to get a state or local permit for serving that alcohol, then the intent is you have to make sure you have proper security and proper supervision.”
Previously, the city planned to require businesses to have 1 security guard per 50 customers in a business, but that requirement was taken out and replaced with recommendations from the state Alcoholic Beverage Control to say businesses under the ordinance should “provide adequate supervision” to prevent underage or noticeably intoxicated people from consuming alcohol.
Emily Morton, an attorney for Funky’s, The Library and The Lyric Oxford, had problems with latest version of the permit process that The Lyric would be required to follow. Under the ordinance, The Lyric would be the only business in Oxford that would have to submit an event permit for each event and pay a $75 processing fee for each permit.
Morton asked the Board to reconsider the policy because no other business other than The Lyric would be required to submit an event permit.
“With the other restaurants and bars, we consider that whatever their maximum capacity is, that’s what will be reached that night,” alderwoman Janice Antonow said. “With the Lyric, we don’t know that. We don’t know if we’re going to have a concert if there will be 100… or if there will be 1,000.”
Morton said the city was asking for “too much information” by asking The Lyric to include the band, performer or DJ’s name and contact information. She asked where the information would be stored and who would have access to the information.
Mayor Robyn Tannehill said the city is not trying to overstep its bounds or to become “big brother” by having access to the information, but the city wants to have an accurate idea of what an event is going to look like to determine how much policing will be needed.
“We all swore that we would take an oath to protect this community as much as we can,” Tannehill said. “And I feel like that’s what we’re doing. You’re trying to make us into the bad guy and big brother here… but shame on me if I don’t have the backbone to implement some of these things to protect this community.”
The proposed ordinance was first presented as a measure to make the Square safer by requiring business on the Square have stricter security measures than other businesses in the rest of the city. However, many restaurant and bar owners on the Square said that would put them at disadvantage over other business not on the Square.
The Board will hold another public hearing on July 17 at 5 p.m., where the Board could possibly vote on the ordinance.