By Errol Castens
OXFORD – The first day of store-bought cold beer in Oxford saw sales from lackadaisical to frenzied with some customers surprised about the change and some stores without coolers.
Oxford’s Board of Aldermen voted in August to allow cold beer store sales and Sunday sales for the first time in memory, with the change taking effect at 7 a.m. Thursday.
“We heard from the night crew that we had people wanting to buy beer at midnight,” Kroger employee Shawn Doyle said.
The only people waiting in front of Kroger’s coolers at 7 a.m. Thursday were a couple of reporters and a photographer. Beer account representative Chris Fairley reported, however, that one student-dominated convenience store “had people going crazy at 8 o’clock, like it was Christmas.”
Joey Vaughan, owner of Joe’s Craft Beer, said the change had caught his first customer by surprise.
“Somebody saw me putting up my chalkboard sign on the sidewalk that said, ‘Cold Beer,’ Vaughan recounted. “They said, ‘Wait up. Cold beer – for real? No way!’”
Vaughan said he won’t have cooler space to chill all his beer, but the new law will open new offerings to customers.
“There are some things we can get in kegs that we can’t get in bottles, so filling up a half-gallon bottle is something we can do now,” he said. Hotel guests without refrigerators can now opt to buy a single or two already cold, he added.
Jack McCown, a University of Mississippi student from Auburn, Ala., said cold beer in stores means he’ll stay home more often.
“It’s definitely going to make me buy beer more instead of going out to a bar,” he said.
Larry Sanders bought a cold Bud Light on his way home from work Thursday.
“I can grab it now, and when I get home it’s still cold,” he said.
Double Quick manager Charles Mullin said his store built a 28-degree “beer cave.”
“Everybody’s jumping up and down, buying two or three smaller packages,” he said. “Seventy percent of my business is college students. They buy specialty beers.”
Oxford Spot owner Alex Ali couldn’t yet sell cold beer.
“It’s been a real challenge to get the coolers in,” he said as he worked with his refrigeration technician. “We’re hoping to have it done tonight.”
Stores will sell beer on Sunday for the first time – 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
“Sunday sales will be a plus for all of us,” Ali said.
Vaughan said football Sundays will be strong, but otherwise “it’ll be a fairly slow day, I think. We’ll see.”
Sanders welcomed the change. “Now we ain’t got to go to Holly Springs or Batesville to get beer on Sunday,” he said.
Mary Kate Yurkow said seven-day availability of cold beer will be the end of her beer run to a Marshall County barbecue place.
“We used to drive to Betty Davis Grocery on Sunday afternoons,” she said. “We probably won’t be going there anymore.”
Doyle said one other Oxford beer tradition may be soon gone as well.
“It’s going to kill my ice and cooler sales,” he said.