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Back at it: Oxford’s nightlife jolts back to life

Densely-packed bars, dance floors sticky from spilled drinks, streets crowded with jubilant Miamians — all hallmarks of a typical weekend in Oxford. And up until a few months ago, seen week in and week out. 

But once COVID-19 reached Oxford’s red brick roads, they quickly became deserted. For most of summer, bars sat empty and neon signs were dark. To many who remained in town, including permanent residents and students who had stuck around, the lack of nightlife was a bizarre departure from the norm. 

Now, nearly six months after Oxford’s bar scene shut down, it’s coming back to life. 

As Miami’s school year arrived, so did many students, streaming back to Oxford in the hopes of returning to normalcy. And while that normalcy certainly isn’t here yet, that hasn’t stopped a portion of those students from resuming their weekly tradition of living it up uptown. 

On Saturday, Aug. 22, Miamians went out to the bars on High Street by the dozens. From Brick Street to Skipper’s, students packed into corners and onto tables, eager to relieve the stress of syllabus week. 

Inside Brick Street, tables sit six feet apart from one another, gathering in large groups is prohibited and the normally-writhing dance floor was strangely empty. However, students still crowded around their individual tables, raising shot glasses to the sky and sipping appreciatively at their trash cans. 

Despite the drizzly weather of the evening, some patrons even spilled out onto the patio, laughing and conversing in the night air. 

“I’ve missed this so much,” one girl remarked to her friends.

“Me too,” one replied. “I’ve been needing it for so long.” 

Just off High Street, the sounds of house parties rang across the darkened town. At one house on Main Street, students were packed so closely together on a porch that some had to hang off railings or sit on the steps just to find space. At another, this time on S. Campus Avenue, the sounds of shattering glass were followed by cries of excitement and surprise, followed by a taunting call of, “sweep it up, nerd.” 

At yet another party, further down Main Street than the first, students playing beer pong in a garage were briefly confronted by police. The cop car shone its searchlight into the open garage, flashing its sirens as a warning. But no words were exchanged, and when the car pulled away, the party resumed. 

Back uptown, Skipper’s was hopping. The area outside of the bar was filled with people. Some sat at the few picnic tables out front while more leaned against the building. Others spilled out into the areas outside of Bagel and Deli and The Den.  

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Students joked with one another, called out to friends and acquaintances and partied like it was 2019. Amidst the smiling faces and “going out” clothes, masks were seldom seen. 

“We’re being smart about it,” a male student sitting outside of Bagel and Deli said, gesturing to the spaced-out tables and scattered individuals. “Just getting a beer or grabbing a bite to eat isn’t the worst thing you can do.”

And, true enough, the crowds uptown this weekend weren’t as large or as densely-packed as they might have been in another year. But students were there all the same, celebrating and ringing in this strange new school year in the midst of a global pandemic.