Hamilton promises close watch on downtown outdoor drinking area

Before approving a new Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area that will allow people to carry cups of alcohol from noon to midnight, Hamilton City Council promised that if things don’t go well, the city will reconsider the program.

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Before council voted unanimously on two ordinances creating the adult-refreshment area, they heard from some residents who expressed concerns about the program.

“I want to applaud all the work that’s happened in the city of Hamilton,” said the Rev. Bryan Price, pastor of Jesus is Amazing Church in the Lindenwald neighborhood. He’s a father of four who said the downtown area, German Village and other parts of the city now look great.

But, he said, “the new designation of areas to be able to drink at from noon to midnight concerns me.”

“This great city was built upon family values and hard work,” he said.

He said it was a long-standing joke that in Hamilton there was a church on every corner and also a bar on each corner.

“And the one thing you knew as a family is, ‘I can take my family to church, but we weren’t going to the bar,’ ” he said.

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The DORA area erases the line that parents were once able to enforce, he said.

Hamilton officials see the program as an economic development tool, with outdoor drinking allowed if alcohol is purchased from participating bars and restaurants and kept in special cups. Drinking will be allowed seven days a week from noon to midnight.

“City Council’s telling me if I want to come to the city, I have to expose my kids to alcohol, I have to expose my kids to the effects of that,” Price said.

“You do not have to change, morally and ethically, to generate income,” he said. “Please do not lose sight of what is correct to do.”

“I don’t believe that the city of Hamilton, to be accepted and to be back to the status that we once were, has to say, ‘Come to our town, and walk around with a beer,’ ” Price said.

Hamilton’s hopes to launch the DORA program in May may be delayed because it requires approval from the state and the fabrication of signs that will announce the DORA boundaries.

Mayor Pat Moeller told Price the city has a good safety and sanitation plans for the outdoor-drinking program.

“If it’s not working, we’re going to take a real close look at it … We’re going to be monitoring it from the very start,” he said.

While about 80 percent of people surveyed support the program, Price and others predicted bad behavior by the drinkers.

“I would say that, hopefully, you’re going to see responsible adults,” Moeller told Price.

“That’s what we want for our whole city, but that’s not what we have,” Price responded. “We currently do not have responsible adults, so introducing alcohol is not going to create responsible adults.”

Council member Carla Fiehrer and City Manager Joshua Smith said city employees have put a lot of thought into the program and how to address problems that may arise.

“No one knows for sure how this is going to turn out … I’m hopeful it will turn out in a positive fashion,” Smith said. “If it does not, I’m very certain that it’ll be back in front of council in a short period for further consideration.”

“I think it merits at least giving it a try,” Fiehrer said.

German Village resident Jerrl Saylor told city council he remembers when “you couldn’t leave anything out in front of your house for more than five minutes, or it was gone.”

“I’m sorry to say, but when the two bars closed down in German Village, I was very happy,” he said.

People were throwing trash into his yard, he said, plus, there was prostitution.

“When those bars closed down, I actually thanked God for it,” Saylor said.

One neighbor moved away because strangers kept drinking on her front porch, according to Saylor.

“We can have the establishments, it’s not what bothers me. It’s the walking up and down the street with people with alcohol. I don’t agree with that,” he said.

He almost moved out of German Village because of the issues, until things began to improve.

“I’ve been praying over this area since ‘91. All the German Village. I’d walk around it and pray, and ask God to change it,” he said.

Saylor said he doesn’t want to see a return to Hamilton’s early-20th-century “Little Chicago” days.



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