Despite their own challenges in the midst of the pandemic, bars and restaurants in Oxford have continued to open their doors on Saturdays when the Rebels are elsewhere.
Lamar Yard, one of the newest businesses in town, opened in May. Its open concept of a “yard” is something that is relatively new for the Oxford area, with an outdoor, AstroTurf covered seating area, separating a restaurant and bar space on either end. The barbeque restaurant has hosted watch parties for away games since the start of Ole Miss’s football season.
“It’s kind of how you would expect our restaurant to be, definitely bringing in more of a family,” Patrick Ellis, one of the owners of Lamar Yard, said.
Tres Brassell, Patrick Ellis and Nickle Smith opened the restaurant in the height of the coronavirus pandemic, but they said that business has been going well since its opening.
“We’ve been really busy and really, across all demographics. So we’ve been really happy with it,” Ellis said.
Ellis said that atmosphere is the most valuable part of the business, since there are so many options when it comes to watching the games.
“We have tables and chairs set up, but we also have tables or chairs you can set your own kind of section up with your friends,” Ellis said. “We’ve also got a 15 foot projector screen outside and inside, so you can sit outside and watch the games as well as experience the (other) kinds of atmosphere that we can offer.”
While their main watch parties take place during away games, Brasell said that he encourages anyone to come out to watch the games that they want to.
“Honestly, you (can) come here to watch a home game as well, but we really promote the away watch parties,” Brasell said.
Brasell said that the biggest challenge they have faced during this football season is the national supply chain issue and its effects on their own products.
Ellis mentioned how happy the three of them have been because of the growth since May, despite facing some challenges.
“We just want to keep going in the direction that has been going and to keep growing,” Ellis said.
Funkys, a bar and restaurant on the corner of the Square, is well-known for its watch parties. Not only does it host parties for away Rebel football games, but in the past it has invited patrons to come and watch Rebel Baseball games, World Series games and even NFL Sunday games.
Known for its New Orleans-style daiquiris and pizza, owner Lee Harris describes the restaurant and bar as a place that serves college students and their families.
It’s family oriented in that all the college kids come in and bring their parents,” Harris said.
The bar, open since 2009, has seen its share of challenges since its founding but Harris said that it comes with the job, with or without the pandemic.
“I mean, every day has got its own challenges. It doesn’t necessarily have to be COVID,” Harris said.
In terms of challenges, Harris said that the restaurant business brings new ones every day, but that comes with being a business owner, even in the wake of the pandemic.
“I think every day you open your doors as a challenge. What can you do to separate yourself from the rest? What can you do to make yourself better so you stick out to your customers?” Harris said.
However, Funkys has recently reopened its doors after a renovation to its lobby. The bar has been closed since September but reopened mid-October.
“We knocked out that wall and basically made the bar two and a half times the size it was,” Harris said.
When being asked about what keeps customers coming back for the business’s watch parties, Harris said convenience above all else.
“It’s just convenient, being able to sit there and watch. We’ve got 16 TVs in the bowl, you’re able to sit there and enjoy yourself,” Harris said.
Funky’s will continue to invite patrons in with their hand drawn sidewalk signs detailing their latest watch party. Harris says that the key to a solid business on the Square is creating something customers will want to come back to.
“You just got to create a good name for yourself,” Harris said. “You have to be on top of it and make sure that you offer the customer something they’re going to remember.”