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Board of Aldermen relax some retail and restaurant COVID-19 restrictions

Oxford’s retail and restaurant sectors got some good news on Tuesday.

The Board of Aldermen voted to loosen some of their restrictions that were still in place, matching the restrictions in Governor Tate Reeves’ latest executive order.

Retail businesses can now allow up to 75 percent capacity inside their stores. The previous limit in Oxford was still 50 percent, according to the Serving Oxford Safely plan.

When it came to the restaurants, the Board wavered on expanding dining capacity up to 75 percent, which is allowable under Reeves’ executive order, but with a 3-3 tie on the motion, mayor Robyn Tannehill was the deciding vote in favor of expanding indoor seating capacity.

Included in the motion was to keep the number of people seated at a table to no more than six. Reeves’ executive order allows up to 10 people per table, but the Board was not in favor of increasing the number. Self-service drink stations are also allowed to reopen inside restaurants, but must follow strict guidelines the Board will put in place.

Restaurants inside Oxford city limits must also keep tables six-feet apart from each other. Some Board members felt with tables still having to be spaced out for social distancing, the 75 percent capacity may not be an issue.

“Most Oxford restaurants won’t be able to operate at 75% capacity while still having to keep tables 6 feet apart, so I don’t think the change makes much of a difference,” said Aldermen John Morgan.

The statewide mask mandate is also still in effect through the rest of September in Reeves’ executive order. Tannehill reiterated Oxford’s mask mandate is in effect until the Board decides to remove it from the emergency resolution.

Indoor and outdoor gatherings were also discussed, as Reeves expanding the maximum number of people allowed at each. Reeves’ order now allows up to 10 people indoors and 50 people outdoors when social distancing is not possible. When social distancing is possible, there can now be 20 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.

The Board loosened their social gathering restrictions slightly, but did not go all the way to match Reeve’s order, allowing 25 people at outdoor gatherings and keeping it to 10 people indoors regardless if social distancing can be achieved or not.