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City revokes two outdoor dining licenses due to multiple ordinance violations

After warning restaurants and bars they could lose their outdoor dining licenses if they continued to receive citations for violating the Governor’s executive orders and the city’s local ordinances, the Oxford Board of Aldermen took action.

During their regular meeting on Tuesday, the Board voted to revoke outdoor dining licenses for The Annex and Rafter’s. The businesses received multiple citations since the Board met on Oct. 12 to discuss potentially revoking licenses then, but did not take any formal action.

The Board did say, starting on Oct. 12, any establishments that received citations from that day on would risk having their license revoked.

Oxford chief of police Jeff McCutchen provided an update on citations issued since that meeting. McCutchen said the Oxford Police Department had issued eight citations since Oct. 12: Two to The Annex, two to Rafter’s, one to Harrison’s 1810, one to The Library Sports Bar, one to Rooster’s Bar and Grill and one to Oxford Grillehouse.

Each of the citations were for allowing patrons to stand up in the restaurant or at the bar, according to McCutchen. He provided photographic evidence taken from officers’ body cams, showing the infractions at each establishment, which is in violation of Governor Tate Reeves’ executive order. The order states that restaurant and bar patrons must be seated to be served and cannot congregate in large groups.

“To give a little context with that, when we met, after the (Oct. 12 meeting) I met with half of these restaurant or bar (owners) to discuss what that looked like, and that is multiple people standing up and no one addressing them,” McCutchen said.

McCutchen said the owners told him they wished the individual patrons be issued a citation rather than their establishment. He told the board that they have issued citations to individual customers at businesses where they had been asked to comply with the mask mandate or any of the other COVID-19 restrictions that are in place.

McCutchen also said the business has to be actively trying to comply in order avoid having a citation issued.

“You just have to be proactive in letting us know,” McCutchen said. “We can’t go in and police your people. In this situation, you’ve got multiple people standing up and no one is actively trying to get them to comply. There’s been multiple businesses that have called and said, ‘Hey, we have customers coming in that won’t honor the mask.’ We went to address that with the individuals, not the businesses.”

Once again the issue of how many citations must be given before an establishment loses their outdoor license was brought up. The Board did not set a definite threshold during their Oct. 12 meeting, but felt on Tuesday the two restaurants that had received two citations since last Monday should lose their license.

The Library, Rooster’s Bar and Grill and Oxford Grillehouse did not lose theirs, but McCutchen said he would email those businesses to remind them that one more citation could cost them their license. Harrison’s 1810 is not participating in the outdoor dining program, but has a large outdoor patio space that was in existence prior to the pandemic.

“How many chances are we going to give them? … It’s not fair to the businesses that are following the plan,” Alderman Kesha Howell-Atkinson said.

Alderman Janice Antonow made the motion to revoke Rafter’s and The Annex’s licenses, and Alderman Mark Huelse seconded the motion. Antonow also stated that if the Board decided to do outdoor dining again in the spring, that all restaurants should be allowed to start over with a clean slate regarding citations.