Local Government

Published on August 6th, 2013 | by TLV News

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Notes on City of Oxford Aldermen Meeting – August 6, 2013

by Rebecca Long

michaelikedachandler-coldfeerTonight’s Board of Aldermen meeting was chock full of City business to discuss. On the agenda was the second of three discussions the Board will have about two issues relating to convenience stores and gas stations in the City: (1) Sale of refrigerated beer and light wine – the current Code of Ordinances prohibits refrigeration of such products for retail, and (2) Sale of beer and alcohol on Sundays – currenly Oxford is “dry” on Sunday.

The “Cold Beer/Sunday Sales” portion of tonight’s meeting was led off by attorney Dee Hobbs, who pointed out a few important points to remember while everyone’s thinking about this issue. He reminded us that beer has a much lower alcohol content than some of the products already sold cold in liquor stores. He addressed the potential for vagrancy and vandalism by reminding everyone that we do have “open container” laws which would cut down on some of those crimes. Anyone who’s witnessed a drunk carrying a beer can on the Square knows a police officer will nab him before too long.  Hobbs also pointed out that if this ordinance change is passed, it wouldn’t be a mandate–the “mom and pop” stores who didn’t want to sell beer won’t be forced to do so, they would simply, finally, have a choice.

One of the gentlemen from Craddock Oil Company, Hobbs’ clients who are requesting the “cold beer” ordinance change, spoke next (Steven ?Romero?). He suggested ways Oxford’s stores could defray the cost of refrigerating beer–notably to request coolers from Coca-Cola and Pepsi companies who surely want their products’ refrigeration to continue. He cited that of the 26 stores his company is proud to own in Mississippi, this is the only one without cold beer. He gave the example of a store they own in Brandon–a store similar in size to the one they own in Oxford: when they first opened the store in Brandon, the sale of alcohol on Sunday was not permitted. Now, a little over a year after the ordinance changed to allow Sunday sales, the store is seeing 15%-18% increase in sales (Note: in Brandon there are no “single” sales allowed–the percentage in sales increase is for six-packs of beer and larger).

After Steven finished speaking, Mayor Pat Patterson said, “I don’t know if there’s anything wrong with selling cold beer,” which makes me hopeful. He then opened the floor for comments, starting with a “Pro.”

Joey Vaughan pointed out that when you talk about “mom and pop” stores, when you talk about “the little guy” in business, you’re talking about businesses like his, Joe’s Craft Beer; he only has three employees, and Joe himself works 60 hours a week. He points out, “Beer is my only business,” meaning that he doesn’t have the gasoline, snacks, and other items to run his profit margin on. But he’s still for the ordinance change. He reminded us, “Hot beer is not good for you,” and that it isn’t good for the beer, either. He said, “There are some breweries that won’t distribute here,” and explained it’s because those companies know that their product’s quality deteriorates and denatures as soon as it hits Lafayette County lines, because our Municipal Code doesn’t allow it to be refrigerated. Vaughan also pleaded on behalf of business owners not to delay the implementation of this ordinance change if it does happen, as “Football season is when you make hay selling beer.”

City Attorney Pope Mallette then gave a run down of the changes being proposed to the ordinance. Mayor Patterson said Pope’s information should be released to the news outlets. Patterson then asked if anyone wanted to speak against cold beer or Sunday Sales.

Anna Duncan, owner of Habits Discount Tobacco, stepped up to the podium next. She said, “Cold beer is inevitable,” but followed with, “Sunday sales I totally disagree with.” She didn’t really have any reason except that “One day a week, this town needs peace.” She was followed by Gary Carter, former owner of Elliot Jewelers on the Square; he told an anecdote about police and drunkenness and let the roundabout point of his story stand in for his actual thoughts on the matter at hand.

Mayor Patterson then invited folks who were pro-cold beer and Sunday sales to speak again.

A young man who’d recently moved here from Memphis spoke next about freedom of choice. “Back when prohibition was, they tried to outlaw alcohol all across the nation, all it did was raise crime. I don’t think laws will change the nature of someone… I don’t think you can change the nature of this town,” he said.

The last member of the community to stand at the podium as part of the forum was John Currence, owner of  The City Grocery Restaurant Group. He pointed out that we’ve basically done a “Beta test by allowing alcohol sales on Sundays after football games, and on days when Hallmark suggests we serve a beer with a card to your mother.” (audience laughs) For two years, he reminds us, we’ve been allowed to buy alcohol on these special days only, and his conclusion: “Folks act responsibly.” He pointed out that he “Served on two alcohol task forces for the last two mayors,” and that the general consensus of those committees was to go ahead with Sunday sales. He pointed out as Dee Hobbs had earlier the risks inherent in driving on the highway to get cold beer, or beer on Sunday, as opposed to going to Chevron around the corner.

Mayor Patterson asked if anyone else wanted to speak con, and then asked if anyone wanted to speak against the ordinance change, but no one else spoke out against it.

Patterson then put Oxford Police Chief Joey East on the “hot seat,” and asked him to present his findings. East said that he had spoken with officials in Starkville, Water Valley, and other nearby towns with cold beer and Sunday sales, and all of the towns reported that they had not seen any increase in crime as a result of allowing cold beer and Sunday Sales.

Finally, the Mayor asked to see a show of hands of who was pro-cold beer, and who was against cold beer. The pros far overwhelmed the cons. We only counted two hands against the ordinance change, those of the two people who spoke against it. Nearly everyone else in the packed courtroom and the hallway was pro-ordinance change.

The Aldermen left it there for today. The courtroom was nearly full tonight at the beginning of the Board of Aldermen meeting at City Hall, and after alcohol sale issues were discussed Mayor “Pat” Patterson gave folks time to clear the room if they didn’t want to stay for the rest of the meeting. After all, there are more important things on their agenda to discuss in a city this size, than whether or not convenience stores can refrigerate goods we can already buy legally.

In addition to not allowing beer to be refrigerated in Oxford, generations past thought it wise to outlaw Fortune-Telling as well; I guess that means we’ll all just have to wait two weeks and see what the Board decides. In the meantime, if you are PRO “cold beer” and/or “Sunday sales,” please please call or email your Aldermen soon – their contact information is listed below. On August 20, whether or not you have made your voice heard to the Aldermen who represents the ward in which you live, the Board will vote on these two issues.

Cheers, Oxford!

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 We encourage all Oxonians to call, write, email, tweet,
FB message, or whatever their Alderman

(click here to view a ward map if you don’t know which Alderman to contact):

 

coldbeerJay Hughes, Ward I
1300 Access Road, Suite 100
Oxford, Mississippi 38655
W-662-234-6080
Cell: 662-816-2888
JPHJR@mac.com

Robyn Tannehill , Ward II
1407 Greenway Cove
Oxford, Mississippi 38655
Home: H 662-236-6932
Cell: 662-816-6932
robyn4alderman@gmail.com

Janice Antonow, Ward III
3336 Whippoorwill Lane
Oxford, Mississippi 38655
Home: 662-234-8486
Fax: 662-234-0553
jantonow@msn.com

Ulysses “Coach” Howell, Ward IV
704 Martin Luther King Jr. Cir.
Oxford, Mississippi 38655
Home: 662-234-0938
Cell: 662-816-9393
ulhowell@bellsouth.net

Preston E. Taylor, Ward V
110 Thirkield Drive
Oxford, Mississippi 38655
Home: 662-234-5195
prestontaylor04@aol.com

 Jason Bailey, Ward VI
114 Phillip Rd.
Oxford, Mississippi 38655
Cell: 662-816-0038
Work: 662-513-9990
ward6oxfordms@gmail.com

John Morgan, Alderman-at-Large
109 Orwood Drive
Oxford, Mississippi 38655
Work: 662-236-5370
Home: 662-234-0582
jmorgan@thehelixxgroup.com

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Oxford Historic Preservation Commission Agenda for August 13, 2013
Blue No More? Oxford to Consider Cold Beer in Stores

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About the Author

The Local Voice is a bimonthly entertainment guide and newspaper based in Oxford, Mississippi, covering and distributed in North Central Mississippi, including Oxford, Ole Miss, Taylor, Abbeville, Water Valley, Lafayette County, Yalobusha County, and parts of Panola County, Marshall County, and Tupelo . The Local Voice is distributed free to over 255 locations in North Mississippi and also available as a full color PDF download worldwide on the internet.



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