OXFORD – Aldermen voted 6-1 Tuesday not to ask permission from the state to serve alcohol on eight Sundays this year.
The Oxford Restaurant Association had proposed the experiment as a test of whether full-menu restaurants could serve alcohol with meals on Sundays without disturbing the day’s traditional dignity.
The group had wanted to sell on July 4 and University of Mississippi home football game weekends this season.
Board attorney Pope Malette warned of several legal complexities, including the lack of a state distinction between bars and restaurants that might mean the town’s noisier, student-oriented bars could not be excluded.
Alderman John Morgan was the only member to vote in favor of asking permission from the Mississippi Alcoholic Beverage Control for sales on the selected dates.
More than a dozen Oxford residents spoke on the issue, Patterson splitting the responses evenly between those for and those against the proposal.
Jerry Jordan, president of the Oxford Restaurant Association, said, “We’re waiting to see whether a very small minority will restrict the rights of thousands of Oxford residents. ”
Becky Moreton, who lives near the Square, said Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights are already noisy far past midnight.
If Sunday sales were adopted, she said, “There’s just going to be one more night of noise.”
Given Malette’s reservations about legally distinguishing between restaurants and bars, their own expressed concerns and others expressed by townspeople, aldermen approved by a 4-3 vote having Mayor Pat Patterson appoint a committee to study the issue.
Patterson said the city now has time to study the issue thoroughly. Three possibilities – state resort status for downtown Oxford, a local-and-private bill allowing Oxford more authority in regulating alcohol sales or a rewriting of statewide law to distinguish between bars and restaurants – seemed the most likely routes if such sales are pursued.
“If they’d voted to petition ABC, we would have been under the gun,” he said. “As it is, we have until the deadline next year for local and private bills to figure this out.”
Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal