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New rules coming to Middletown’s outdoor drinking area

Starting Jan. 1, there will be changes to Middletown’s outdoor drinking area. 

Bar patrons will be charged $1 for a wristband that allows them to take their alcoholic beverages outside within the city’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA. Those consuming an alcoholic beverage without the dated wristband or DORA cup could be cited for having an open container.

MORE: Want to stroll around Middletown with your beer in hand?

After several months of discussions among the bar and other business owners in downtown Middletown, a consensus was reached to establish some new recommendations in how the district will be operated, said Jeff Payne, Downtown Middletown Inc. executive director.

Middletown’s DORA district has been in operation for nearly three years. In the past few months, the days and hours of DORA operations have been expanded.

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The wristband revenues, according to Payne, will cover the costs of administering the DORA district, such as marketing and signage, and be managed by DMI.

MORE: Middletown may expand outdoor drinking program

When the DORA district began operations three years ago, there were no special cups used as is done in Hamilton’s DORA district.

Payne acknowledged that recommendations were “not a one-size fits all solution” and tried to fairly hold several discussions during the process. “Pretty much, all of the permit holders have participated in the discussions,” he said.

MORE: Hamilton’s outdoor-drinking program launches this week

Earlier in the discussions, a proposal to charge $1 per cup in the DORA district, as is done in Hamilton, found opposition with some businesses who felt it was excessive. 

“Just because one community does it this way, it doesn’t mean that it will work here,” said Mike Robinette of Liberty Spirits.

MORE: Middletown’s open container district open in time for New Year’s Eve

John Heyda of @ the Square, who was a permit-holder who was against the changes, said there needed to be more buy-in from the permit-holders.

“I would have sought more buy-in rather than adjust to changes before we knew what those changes were,” he told this news outlet recently. “It seems like the wristbands make things more complicated.”

Monica Nenni, co-owner of West Central Wine, said the $1 wristband was a compromise among the downtown businesses who were concerned about charging $1 per cup per beverage in the DORA district.

She said the funds generated in the DORA district goes back into funding marketing and advertising to get the word out to people to visit downtown Middletown. Nenni said having these funds will help in the efforts to attract new visitors.

“We can’t expect the city to help out the DORA with its general funds when Middletown is finding it hard to pave streets and pay for other basic public services,” Nenni said.

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