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Later hours, ID scanners, required security – some of OPD’s ideas to fix problems on the Square

Oxford Police Department’s Chief Joey East is asking the Oxford Board of Aldermen to consider some changes that would help him and the department keep Oxford’s nightlife booming while keeping people safe – including extending the hours the bars are allowed to remain open.

On Tuesday at the board’s regular meeting, East presented about a dozen recommendations to the aldermen that he says are things he’d like to see discussed and implemented if possible.

First on the list is to make the downtown area its own district.

It could be the Downtown District, or call it Entertainment District or the Historic District” East said. “But having a separate district would allow us to do things differently in the downtown area than in other parts of the city.”

Currently, bars close at midnight Monday-Wednesday, at 1 a.m. Thursday and Friday and then at midnight on Saturdays, except when there is a home football game and then they close at 1 a.m. On Sundays bar close at 9 p.m.

East is suggesting changing the hours for closing time to 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, leaving the 9 p.m. closing time for Sundays, to make the hours more cohesive and less confusing.

He also suggested requiring bars to remain open for an additional hour; however, not to serve alcohol.

Last call would be around 12:45 a.m. and then the bar would stay open until 2 a.m., allowing people to remain and drink their last drink slower and give them some time to sober up before everyone heads out onto the street at one time,” East said. “It would help with the crowds and reduce the number of assaults when the bars close and everyone is out on the street at the same time.”

East met with several of the restaurant/bar owners and other downtown business owners recently to present his ideas to them before coming before the board with his suggestions.

Alderman Janice Antonow asked how the restaurant owners reacted to requiring them to stay open an extra hour without being able to sell alcohol.

Some said they’d rather do it this way and others said they are ready to get everyone out by midnight and clean up and go home,” East said.

Mayor Robyn Tannehill, who also attended the meeting with the downtown business owners, said some restaurant owners liked the idea because they could make more food sales during that hour.

Other suggestions included requiring bars to have driver license scanners that would check for fake IDs; making all restaurants 21 and up after dinner hours; requiring bars to have a certain number of security officers based on occupancy; require bars to have working security cameras inside and outside; requiring venues with permits from the ABC to also apply for an event permit with city when having a larger event or concert; not allowing glass bottles on balconies; removed the diagonal parking between 10th and 11th street during nighttime hours; and create a designated pick-up area for taxis, Uber drivers, hotel buses and others in the east area of the Square near City Hall.

These are things we should talk about,” East said. 

The board said asked City Attorney Pope Mallette to look into the creation of a Downtown District since that’s the first step before considering the other suggestions.