OXFORD – Fox News Channel’s Shepard Smith said “there’s been a miracle” in Oxford on Tuesday.
The Board of Aldermen voted to allow the sale of cold beer in stores “for the first time in my lifetime,” he said.
The vote also extended store sales of beer and light wine to Sundays. Hours of sale will be 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., mirroring those given to restaurants for the few Sundays each year that they are allowed to serve beer, wine or liquor by the drink.
Alderman Ulysses Howell, who has long opposed Sunday alcohol sales in any form, was the sole nay vote in the 6-1 decision.
The change affects only store sales, and beer remains illegal in Lafayette County outside of Oxford, although liquor and wine are lawful countywide.
Discussion of the issue at Tuesday’s meeting was quick and minimal because the board had hosted a formal public hearing two weeks earlier. Some residents and business owners at that time had touted advantages from economic development and eliminating risky “beer runs” to neighboring counties to promotion of basic personal liberty. Others had opposed it on grounds from security concerns to a desire for store employees to have a day off.
Alderman Robyn Tannehill, a former Oxford tourism director, had been a proponent of both cold and Sunday sales.
“I’m excited to see this board committed to moving Oxford forward,” she said afterward. “I think our vote tonight in fact does that. I think our citizens will be excited to be able to purchase cold beer 30 days from now and that it’ll be good for our convenience stores, our visitors and our citizens.”
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson has often opposed loosening of alcohol restrictions but was not greatly troubled by Tuesday’s vote.
“I think it went smoothly, and the vote went the way I expected it to,” he said. “The vote for Sunday sales gave me some pause, but I don’t think it will drastically affect the character of the community.”
Oxford restaurateurs, tourism promoters, and some citizens have frequently pushed for extending bar hours and legalizing sales of alcohol for every Sunday.
Smith told Fox News viewers that Oxford bars still close on Saturdays at midnight, adding, “But that’s another matter – and they’re working on it.”