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City approves craft beer ordinance

Soon shoppers can enjoy a cold beer while perusing their favorite craft beer establishment in Oxford. The Oxford Board of Aldermen approved an ordinance amendment that allows consumers to drink or sample a craft beer before they decide on a final purchase.

The approval came during the Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday and ended a process that began in January. There are several requirements and regulations craft beer businesses must follow in order to serve to its shoppers. For Allen Jackson, owner of Jackson Beer Co., he will be ready to pour a glass the minute the new ordinance goes into effect.

The ordinance passed by a vote of 5-1 with aldermen Ulysses Howell the lone dissenting vote. Aldermen Jason Bailey was not present at the meeting. Alderwoman Janice Antonow continued to express her concern over creating a Pandora’s box scenario by passing the ordinance but voted to approve it after some of her remaining questions were answered during the meeting prior to Tuesday’s vote.

When the ordinance passed, it happened so suddenly that is caught Jackson off guard.

“I had already planned for the worst, so I was already thinking about the next step. Like how can I go about the next time,” Jackson said. “I figured it was going to be a vote (of) 4-3. I was really surprised it was only one against. That means that the other (aldermen) are starting to understand what our concept is, what we want to do with it.”

The ordinance amends Chapter 14, Article II in the Code of Ordinances of the City of Oxford, which discusses alcoholic beverages laws. Some of the requirements include an establishment must specialize in the sale of craft beer, which is generally defined as beer made by a brewer that is small, independent and traditional. The establishment must maintain a minimum of eight functional draft beer taps on location.  The size of an individual tasting or sample cannot exceed one ounce per serving and allows up to five servings per consumer in a 24-hour period.

Inside the establishment, there must be a designated area for on-premise consumption for sampling or drinking craft beer which is restricted to people 21 years of age and older. The establishment can serve craft beer in the designated area between the hours of 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays. Any other times will be subject to the Board’s decision with the approval of the state tax commission.

Jackson spearheaded the process of allowing his business to serve customers while they shop. Now, customers can sample a beer before buying a six-pack or taking home a growler. The approval of the ordinance also allows him to host tasting events with breweries without being required to have food available, something he was paying for out of his own pocket.

“It’s just going to be exciting to let everybody know,” Jackson said. “I’ve had a lot of people that’s been through the process with us and watching it. Customers have been coming in and asking every day. I think after the last meeting they’d ask me and I’d drop my head, kind of not really knowing how it’s going to end up. Now I’m going to have a little more pep in my step about it.”

Between Tuesday’s meeting and the previous meeting on April 2, Jackson said a couple of people with the code enforcement came to look at his operation, but he did not have any aldermen visit.

The ordinance will go into effect 30 days after the Board and Mayor Robyn Tannehill sign it into law. Establishments are required to pass an initial inspection by the Oxford Police Department for compliance with the new ordinance requirements and must maintain certification of inspection onsite.