The summer of 2020 will look different for Oxford

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Luna Blu, at Stewart Square, is among the Oxford businesses that have reopened. Photo courtesy of Luna Blu

By Emily Gentry, Lucy Bonner, and Casey Brosokas

A typical Oxford summer might include concerts every Thursday, Memorial Day celebrations, a Fourth of July festival, a Porsche car show in August, and the Chamber of Commerce dog parade. But, the global pandemic has halted these arrangements.

According to Jessica Greene, assistant city manager, all planned events through June have been canceled, but the event board continues to discuss plans for the rest of the summer.

During the summer, the board usually amps up the number of events to boost the city’s economy and support locals while students are absent. “Two towns in one, a bustling busy community when the students are here and a charming quiet town when students are gone,” Greene said.

Greene said that with the termination of these events the city of Oxford’s economy might suffer, but that the community continues to support local businesses. “We’re going to do what we can to be a thriving community this summer, it just may look a little different” stated Greene.

Kim Daggy, director of Enjoy Oxford, is working on plans for this summer in regards to the COVID-19 crisis. “We have had to put a lot of our plans on hold to comply with safety, which is our number one priority for the community… we are focusing on keeping our community strong and hopeful,” she said.

One of the main events that have been scrapped for the summer is the annual 13-part concert series that is held Thursday nights at the uptown pavilion. The concert series has been going on for 34 years, “It’s tradition, the community loves it,” said Daggy. “It’s like a punch to the gut, we have been planning for it since January,” she said

While the in-person concerts will not be hosted, Daggy has set up at least two virtual concerts for June, that will be streamed on Facebook Live. More information on the virtual concerts can be found on Enjoy Oxford’s blog.

Daggy also said Enjoy Oxford is working on a possible drive-in concert for the community for some time during the summer, for a safer, live experience for Oxford residents. Daggy said the concert series is also completely financed through sponsorships, meaning, “it’s completely community-driven through our local businesses.”

All city-sponsored events will follow Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s suggested social distancing policies and the event board is taking the city’s safety into consideration when planning these events.

Shutdown is beginning to ease

After almost two months of being shut down, Gov. DeWine announced last week that there would be a phased reopening of business through the end of May. Among other businesses, hair salons all over the state have begun to reopen for business.

Luna Blu, a hair salon and spa on West Spring Street, is one of the many that have reopened for business.  “Business is going very well, our schedule was full,”  Allyson Cecil, director of the salon, said after reopening from the pandemic this week.

Having a full schedule means many individuals are coming in and out of the salon. Luna Blu is making sure to have everything sanitized in between each client to minimize the risk to customers.

“Right now, we’re only taking appointments and our online booking is also turned off,” Cecil said.  “The reasoning for that is that we’ve added time to all of our services to allow time for cleaning and sanitizing in between clients.”

A major precaution the company is taking is having both clients and employees wear masks at all times. Clients are also asked, when walking into the salon, to wash their hands. A receptionist will stop and ask them to do so and a handwashing station is now right by the front door.

“We have three separate waiting areas, so we split the waiting areas and we only have one chair in each waiting area.  Our receptionists are directing everyone on where to go based on where they are in the salon,” said Cecil.

Helping Oxford get back to business

The Oxford Chamber of Commerce has been working with businesses to help them be successful during the crisis. “We are here to support our businesses and want to see all of our businesses succeed,” said Kelli Riggs, President of the chamber.

The Chamber has created a new website, OxfordOhioStrong.com, for all business owners and customers in Oxford, for new updates and information regarding COVID-19. “The chamber is more like a resource for information, we are here to help,” said Riggs.

This week into next week, the chamber will be hosting Restaurant Retail Week, according to Riggs, which will encourage the Oxford community to go out and support local businesses. The chamber will be running a program called the Oxford Back to Business Passport program for anybody that is in Oxford.

The Back to Business Passports will be available to all at the chamber offices, 120 W. High St., throughout the week. The goal of this program is for residents of Oxford to support as many local businesses they can during the week. “Someone can come to get one of the passports, and go to a business in town, and they will get a stamp from that business on the passport,” Riggs said.

At the end of the week those who had their passports stamped by businesses will be able to turn in their passports to the chamber for the chance to win prizes. The program ends Monday, May 31.

According to Casey Wooddell, Director of Oxford Parks and Recreation, the Oxford Aquatic Center is scheduled to open June 20. The pool complex will have many more protocols in action within the newly-opened indoor facilities, including the cleaning of bathrooms and handrails every two hours, Wooddell said.

While outdoor parks and facilities are now open for walking and hiking, the state has mandated that playgrounds and playground equipment are to be closed until further notice. “I don’t see it happening anytime soon (the opening of playground equipment)… playgrounds are not staffed, so we do not know how they will be able to be kept clean,” Wooddell said.