How is Oxford responding to the pandemic?

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the world community in various ways, the most important being regarding health, followed closely by economic repercussions. With more than 7 million cases in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic and more than 214,000 deaths, this pandemic is a challenge on both the individual and the community level. If you are among the lucky ones who never caught the virus, you certainly know someone who did. And if this disease did not impact you financially, you certainly know someone who was.

The city of Oxford did not escape to the world’s epidemic and had to shut down on Governor Reeve’s orders from April 3rd to April 30th. Moreover, the University of Mississippi Oxford is home to had to go online starting March 23rd, forcing number of students to come home to their parents and leaving the city empty. Therefore, local businesses suffered from important financial losses due to the shutdown first, and then due to the restrictions — among which we can find a limited number of people to be served within a business at a given time, the obligatory mask-wearing, and a curfew for bars and restaurants at 10 pm on weekdays to avoid overcrowding late at night. About ten months after the start of the pandemic in the U.S., local businesses are still adjusting to a new way of functioning.

As mentioned in the video, the city of Oxford’s Board of Aldermen voted in mid-September a resolution allowing restaurants to offer outdoor dining in front or near their establishment. Restaurants are now able to use parking spaces and turn them into a dining area, protected by metal fences. Sidewalks also have been arranged in order for pedestrians to be able to walk down the street without having to walk on the road.

We can still notice parking signs in the middle of this brand new dining area. On the right, a sidewalk has been created for pedestrians to be able to walk by.

Ten restaurants so far decided to be part of the project: The Annex, Tangos, St. Leo, St. Leo Lounge, Round Table, Rafters, McEwen’s, Funkys, Julep Steakhouse, and City Grocery. Unfortunately, the parking spots are not offered but have to be leased to businesses. The average rent for one month of use is $192.50, but restaurants that signed up had to pay an initial non-refundable fee of $104 for the cost of an appraisal, plus two months of rent worth $385. The lease runs for three months, the first month of rent is already paid thanks to the residents’ and First National Bank’s donations. Restaurants not located on the Square can use their own private parking lot as outdoor dining areas without requiring a lease because their space is considered private property while the parking spaces downtown are considered city-owned property.

The restaurant Funkys, located on the Square, was able to use that space to add 40 more seats outside, a great investment for business given the limited capacity that is now allowed inside, currently set at 75% of the normal capacity.

Funkys’ new outdoor dining space took 3 days to be installed.

The City Hall precise that restaurants will be responsible for following all alcohol rules and ordinances within their outdoor areas, such as compliance with the Alcoholic Beverage Control. Establishments had to send their floor plans to Mississippi’s ABC for approval before setting up their areas. In the case of non-respect of these measures or the restrictions from the city, licenses can be revoked by the city.

Sources:

Mississippi State Department of Health

Office of Governor Tate Reeves – Press releases

Oxford Eagle Article on Outdoor Dining Approved

WTVA Article on Outdoor Dining Options

City of Oxford Updates on Community Efforts regarding Coronavirus

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