Oxford Has Some Weird Laws…

No cold beer. Keg registration. No fortunetellers or clairvoyants. Weird!!!

As an adult transplant to Oxford (I moved here to attend law school and stayed) one of my first surprises was the unavailability of cold beer at a convenience store. As a college student in Oklahoma, I had become accustomed to picking up a cold six pack before a ball game or on a hot windy (Mississippians have no idea!) afternoon. Come to find out, not only is Oxford beer peddled hot, it can’t be peddled at all on Sundays.

Over the years I have had many conversations about the “hot beer quirk” with residents and visitors alike. Visitors are understandably taken aback by the law, but never fear, residents are always ready and willing to offer beer chilling tips and techniques, and if the weather’s right, point them to the Rebel Barn – Nature’s refrigerator!

So, what gives with this quirk? City of Oxford Ordinance Section 14-44(2), on the books since about 1968, makes in unlawful for any establishment, excepting restaurants, to “[s]ell give or dispense or permit to be consumed any light wine or beer which has been refrigerated…”

The truth of the matter is that Mississippi is a prohibition state. In 1966, about thirty-three years after prohibition was repealed across America, the Mississippi Legislature announced that prohibition was our state law. However, cities and counties were given the “local option” to opt out of the prohibition on alcohol and establish local regulations – this is why rules vary throughout the State.

My sense is that Oxford adopted Ordinance 14-44(2) as a compromise attempt to curb drinking and driving (contrary to rumors of the strong ice manufacturing lobby), and, for what it’s worth, I think it has the intended effect on some. I admit that I am still often frustrated by beer that is just a little too warm for proper drinking, but I can always count on a friend or even a stranger to pass me an ice cold brew in a Dixie cup accompanied by their own tepid beer tales.

If you aren’t a local, or you’ve been gone a few years, Ordinance Section 14-88 may come as a surprise. This section, part of the City Keg Registration Article, requires a possessor’s permit to purchase and possess a keg. The stated intent for the Article, at least in part, is to curb under-age binge drinking. Interesting.

I have a good friend who became temporary owner of a hand-me-down “kegerator” during our first semester of law school. It was an upright kitchen refrigerator with a tap drilled through the door, about waist high, and a cinder block in the bottom to hold the keg. We thought it was brilliant, and kept a keg of Shiner Bock or Newcastle perpetually cold (thus solving the problem created by weird law #1). I recall many nights over our three years in school spent hotly debating the finer points of one law or another, Dixie cup in hand, with the “kegerator” looking on from the corner of the room. I don’t recall any nights of binge drinking. Alas, my buddy has recently passed the “kegerator” to a new generation – I only hope the current owner isn’t deterred from similar learning experiences by the keg registration requirement.

Enough talk about alcohol. Ordinance Section 74-2 clearly wins the weird law prize. It states “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person to carry on the trade, profession or calling of fortunetelling or clairvoyance in the city, or to receive a fee for such.” I bet there’s a good story behind this one – I look forward to your comments!

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  1. touche.

    (leaving a comment to boost morale)

  2. As a former law student, how do you feel about the possibility of these laws changing? I have been reseaching these laws as well, and in doing so was extremely interested to find this article.


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