Aldermen take first steps to Downtown District

Published 10:30 am Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Oxford Police Chief Joey East presented the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would create a Downtown District in the city.

The district is loosely defined as including all areas of the Square that have to be closed to foot traffic. More specifically, the Downtown District is defined as the area west of the Courthouse, beginning on the west side of the Square and proceeding west on Jackson Avenue to include those businesses on the south side of Jackson Avenue to South 10th Street; then proceeding south to the north side of Van Buren Avenue to include those businesses on the east side of South 10th Street and then proceeding east on Van Buren Avenue to South Lamar Boulevard to include those businesses on the North side of Van Buren Avenue.

East presented several proposed guidelines during the reading which he said are designed to keep citizens safe, especially when they’re out at night.

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“What we’re doing here is asking to make some regulations and guidelines,” East said.

The first of the regulations include requiring businesses to hire adequate security, and making sure the security personnel is easily identifiable. For venues with 50 or less people, one security guard is required. For 51 or more people, the minimum required staff is two.

Another regulation that will keep visitors to the Square safe is having them stand in lines to get into events, which will be clearly marked to indicate which people are entering and which are leaving. Security personnel will be required to monitor the lines, and are allowed to be either armed or unarmed, depending on the business owner’s discretion.

Businesses would be required to have cameras placed at all entrances, behind the bar and outside of bathrooms. The footage will be kept for 14 days, in the event the police department needs to access it. Businesses will also be required to install ID scanners if alcohol is sold. Bars will be required to keep scanners at the door, but East recommended restaurants scan the IDs as customers order alcoholic beverages.

Safety plans, including emergency evacuation, assault and active shooter response guidelines, will also be mandatory for businesses. However, business owners will not be alone in creating said plans.

“I want to point out that that plan can be developed in conjunction with the Oxford Police Department,” Mayor Robyn Tannehill said. “We’re not telling people to hire someone to develop this plan, that they are expected to develop this plan without any knowledge of how to do that. Certainly, we will be assisting their request to help them develop their plan.”

East said those who violate the ordinance would be found guilty of a misdemeanor, resulting in up to a $500 fine for the first offense, or $1,000 for any subsequent offenses, and/or serving up to 90 days in jail for the first event or six months for any subsequent offenses. 

The Board of Aldermen will host a second reading and public hearing regarding the proposed Downtown District at the June 11 meeting. Should that go well, Tannehill said voting on the ordinance could take place as early as two weeks after the hearing.

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