As of Tuesday, Middletown is believed to be the first city in Ohio to create a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA.
City Council approved an emergency ordinance to establish a DORA in a half-mile space within the city’s downtown entertainment area which takes immediate effect to meet state deadlines. The Ohio Division of Liquor Control has to be notified and sign off on the area.
The law, House Bill 47, allows cities or townships with populations ranging from 35,000 to 50,000 to designate one “outdoor refreshment area” where people could legally walk outside with open containers of alcohol, exempting them from Ohio’s open-container law, which generally prohibits a person from carrying an open container of beer or liquor in public.
The law could have a significant economic impact not only in Middletown, but throughout Butler County, with some communities keenly interested in such districts and the revenue they may generate.
The DORA is designed to assist several downtown establishments and enhance the budding downtown entertainment district has been completed.
The proposed DORA is bounded by Clark Street, Manchester Avenue, South Canal Street, Columbia Avenue including Donham Plaza, North Main Street, including the buildings on the northwest corner of North Main and Central Avenue, Central Avenue to the Great Miami River and around the southern edge of Forest Hills Country Club, Water Street and around the American Legion on South Main Street to First Avenue, to South Canal Street, to Reynolds Avenue to Curtis Street to Central Avenue back to Clark Street. City officials said the DORA’s area can be adjusted as necessary.
In that area, there are five state liquor permit holders: At the Square; Murphy’s Landing; The Canal House; The American Legion; and Forest Hills. The area also includes possible future locations such as the Manchester Hotel, the proposed microbrewery/tap room in the Snider Ford/Sonshine building and other ventures in the works.
While this would be an open container area, the beverages would be required to be purchased at establishments within the DORA, city officials have said. Patrons can purchase and walk around with a beverage, but they cannot take that beverage into another establishment. It also does not allow people to bring their own beverages into that area and drink there. City officials also said that public intoxication ordinances would be enforced as well as open container law for people bringing in their own beverages.
“It’s been incredible on how everyone has helped to get this done even though it has not been implemented or proven,” said Jay Moorman of Murphy’s Landing. “I think it’s great and I was surprised with how much cooperation there was from the city, police and the vendors.”
Moorman, who is also a vice president of Downtown Middletown Inc., said he has always been wanting to try this out and if it doesn’t work, then shut it down.
“It’s been a slow process,” Moorman said. “My hope is to close Broad Street between Central Avenue and the (city) Bus Station and music playing on Friday and Saturday nights.”
According to the proposed plan, the DORA will be in operation from 6 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and at any other times established by the chief of police with the concurrence of City Council through a council motion.
Officials have previously said that once the ordinance was adopted, the city would contact the Ohio Division of Liquor Control which issues permit holders within the DORA an outdoor refreshment area designation. However there is no timetable for the state approval, city officials have said.
Council held a public hearing several weeks ago on the matter but there were no comments for or against the proposal.
After the ordinance was unanimously approved, Mayor Larry Mulligan thanked the city staff for their work in getting this accomplished.
“I think were still the first in the state to adopt something like this,” Mulligan said. “It’s certainly good to be progressive and I’m looking forward to seeing how this helps things happening downtown.”