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Changes made to craft beer ordinance amendment

After an initial first reading of a proposed amendment to an ordinance involving craft beer, the Board of Aldermen hit the reset button and started the process over this week.  

Due to further research done by the Oxford Police Department there were substantial changes made since the initial draft that was presented at the March 5 meeting. During Tuesday’s meeting the Board listened to interim Oxford Police chief Jeff McCutchen as he noted the changes as part of a new first reading. 

The ordinance would allow craft beer stores to serve beer to people as they shop. A public hearing was originally scheduled for Tuesday’s meeting, but with the changes made the Board chose to do another first reading and push the public hearing back to a later meeting. 

Key changes made to the ordinance amendment include that the establishment make a required designated area for consumption or sampling and is restricted to people 21-years of age and older. The original ordinance did not require a designated area. The times people would be allowed to drink was shortened by an hour with the new window of time being 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The Sunday window of 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. remained as is.  

Stores will not be able to serve craft beer in bottles under the new proposed changes, requiring all craft beer served for on-premise tasting or sampling come from a tap and served by an employee. The minimum number of taps required was also lowered from 10 to eight. 

The biggest change was the lowering of the amount of consumption from 36 ounces to 16 ounces. A range of 20-23 ounces was considered based on blood alcohol calculations. 16 ounces was presented based on initial request and will allow for sampling of multiple one- or two-ounce samples or a combination of samples and a smaller serving size.  

“That went off of the content of craft beer versus the formula we use for an establishment where you’re not going to be eating and felt like that was too high of levels of intoxication leaving that business. That gave us concern,” McCutchen said of lowering the amount served. 

Without the need of an Alcohol Beverage Control license, the OPD would be solely responsible for the initial inspection and continued monitoring of the establishment to make sure the requirements are being met and minors are not being served. 

During the presentation of the new changes a couple aldermen voiced their concerns over the proposed ordinance change. Alderman Janice Antonow expressed concern of over-stretching the OPD’s resources and asked McCutchen if those responsibilities would ‘cumbersome’ to the department. 

“Currently you don’t have a lot of business that fit this model. What would it look like in five years, ten years, that’s something we can’t predict,” McCutchen said. “Obviously, if it gets big someone is going to come in and want to put this on a different location. So yes, in time it could (be cumbersome).” 

Alderman Ulysses Howell made a comment, stating that if the Board approved the ordinance they would be ‘opening up a can of worms.’