Oxford Police Department recommends extending operating hours of bars on Square

Posted on Dec 1 2017 - 7:59am by Taylor Vance

Earlier this week, the Oxford Police Department recommended the Board of Aldermen change the alcohol ordinances to extend the bar hours to 1 a.m. every night except Sundays. They said the purpose of the change is to make the laws more consistent and less confusing for citizens and visitors.

The current ordinance states bars can serve alcohol until midnight Monday through Wednesday and Saturdays, until 1 a.m. Thursday and Friday and until 9 p.m. Sundays. Right now, bars and other businesses are allowed to stay open past these hours, but cannot serve alcohol.

“We made this recommendation because the current ordinance is confusing for everyone,” said Rusty Rasberry, Oxford Police Department assistant code enforcement officer. “With this change, we hope to streamline the hours to make things easier for everyone.”

This recommendation is part of OPD’s larger recommendation to make the Oxford Square a special “Downtown District.” Doing so would designate the Square as a separate place from the rest of the city.

Some local bar owners said they support these recommendations because it would help their businesses in the long-run.

“I absolutely support these changes,” said Lee Harris, owner of Funky’s Pizza and Daiquiri Bar. “I would extend my hours to 1 a.m.”

Harris said there wouldn’t be a huge revenue increase, but it would “eliminate confusion and helps in the long-run.”

Alderman Mark Huelse said he supports the ordinance change, especially “if it cleans up the confusion” of the currently inconsistent bar hours. The other hope is to avoid everyone leaving the bars at one time, which could pose a safety threat and major traffic congestion.

“The ultimate goal is easing people out of bars,” Huelse said. “I hope this ordinance change helps with that and people will start to leave before the rush when the bars close.”

The recommended ordinance change includes two more aspects. The first change is that commercial stores such as convenience stores and grocery stores that sell alcohol cannot allow customers to consume the alcohol on the commercial property. The other change says bars or restaurants cannot sell alcohol “out the door” to allow customers to take alcohol home.

These ordinances may seem obvious, but Rasberry says they are recommended to “clarify and avoid confusion.”

At previous meetings, Oxford Police Chief Joey East recommended the board consider extending the bar hours, but also having a certain time that bars stop serving while continuing to stay open and let customers drink their last drink and eat to “sober up” before exiting.

Rasberry said they are unable to make this change because of state laws.

“The (Alcohol Beverage Control) doesn’t differentiate between serving and consuming alcohol,” he said. “But we don’t need an ordinance for this. Bars can still operate past (1 a.m.). They just can’t serve alcohol.”

Rasberry encourages bars to do this, but said they aren’t required to do so by law.