The Local Voice

How Will Restaurants Re-open Successfully?

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The Oxford Board of Aldermen will meet tomorrow to discuss whether to allow restaurants to re-open for dine-in service, and if so, under what conditions. Some restaurants in Mississippi began opening for dine-in service yesterday, but did so with numerous restrictions imposed by Governor Reeves’ Executive Order No. 1478, including a requirement that “[t]he number of customers…shall be no greater than 50% of seating capacity.” See, Paragraph I(a)(x).

Why it’s important: Restaurants employ more Lafayette County workers than any other sector, save government. Moreover, they contribute heavily to Oxford’s unique culture, identity and bottom line.

Big picture: Guidance from public health officials continues to limit “normal” operation of restaurants, and prudent employees and consumers will remain understandably reluctant to risk exposure to the novel coronavirus in typical restaurant settings for some time.

Opportunity for creativity: Recognizing the importance of restaurants to our community, policy makers should responsibly craft coronavirus specific guidelines and regulations while also seeking out innovative opportunities. Tactical urbanism, a concept long-familiar to cities interested in evaluating new ideas, provides just such an opportunity.

Bottom line: We are living in a new era that requires quick and innovative policy solutions. We all miss our favorite restaurants. A simple and inexpensive option, temporary outdoor seating, is a win-win for everyone!

Kevin W. Frye is an attorney in Oxford, Mississippi.

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