ERROL CASTENS: Time for a cold one in Oxford

On Aug. 20, Oxford officials will vote on whether to allow stores to sell beer and light wine chilled.

This is not a quantum leap: Beer sales have been lawful in the city for at least four decades.

Bars and restaurants sell both beverages cold by the drink. Stores sell ice chests and ice to go with their warm beer and light wine (less than 5 percent alcohol). Years ago, the Beer Barn even sold cold brews in winter from its outdoor drive-through lane.

Oxford’s warm-beer ordinance, mirrored by Starkville’s until a few years ago, was created back when the legal age to drink beer in Mississippi was 18, but 21 for spirits or wine.

I’ve heard two theories for Oxford’s and Starkville’s prohibitions against refrigerated beer. (Well, three, actually, but it stretches credulity to believe that mayors in both cities were ice merchants.)

One theory was that by outlawing cold beer, officials would at least assure the youngest drinkers time to drive home before their iced-down brew was cold enough to be inviting.

The other was that city leaders judged freshmen to be so attention-deficient that if they had to wait on beer to cool, they’d just forget their thirst and go play Frisbee in the Grove or fly kites on the South Farm instead.

The adoption of 21 as a nationwide drinking age in 1984 undercut any arguments for requiring that beer be retailed unrefrigerated when wine and liquors are sold cold.

I bet Oxford leaders vote to legalize refrigerated beer.

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Never on Sunday?

When the cold beer issue came before Oxford’s Board of Aldermen on Tuesday, it was quickly followed by a proposal to extend days of retail beer sales.

Legalizing Sunday beer sales may seem less a clear-cut issue to some on both sides of the argument. It’s a sacred day for many, some of whom also believe alcoholic beverages to be immoral. Some argue that those who can’t abstain for a day can readily stock up on Saturday.

Others say beer is like bratwursts and Butterfingers – innocuous for most people in reasonable quantities – and if those can be bought on Sundays, then adults ought to be able to buy beer, too.

Oxford’s cold-beer ban is a boon only for the sale of ice and cheap coolers. Given all the other things allowed on Sunday – a day Americans are free to honor or not – the Sunday beer ban is more cultural relic than theological statement or law enforcement tool. Both bans – the warm-beer requirement and Sunday prohibition – sacrifice sales tax to other towns.

More important, these bans are two more manifestations of governmental micromanagement of the lives of adult citizens. Doing away with both would be a small gesture for liberty.

Even for teetotalers, that’s worth supporting.

Contact Daily Journal reporter ERROL CASTENS at

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    Interesting. How does this relate to red wine and other alcohol products which are normally drunk at room temp?