Middletown expanding DORA boundaries to include new brewery

These signs are posted in the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in downtown Middletown where open consumption of alcoholic beverages are permitted. The city of Middletown extended the DORA district hours on Saturday for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. FILE PHOTO
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These signs are posted in the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in downtown Middletown where open consumption of alcoholic beverages are permitted. The city of Middletown extended the DORA district hours on Saturday for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration. FILE PHOTO

Five years ago, Middletown was the first Ohio municipality to establish a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area district and allow outdoor drinking over an approved area.

Last month, City Manager Jim Palenick submitted a request to renew the district for another five years and expand the boundaries to include N.E.W. Ales Brewing on First Avenue.

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The proposed expansion would include the block bounded by Philadelphia Avenue, Garfield Street, First Avenue and Baltimore Street.

Susan Cohen, city administrative services director, said the renewal and expansion request need to be approved by the state and council will consider legislation for final approval at an upcoming meeting.

Palenick said the DORA has been amended twice. Those amendments included lengthening the hours of operation from noon to midnight daily and extending the eastern boundary along Central Avenue.

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To participate, a DORA wristband is purchased for $1 and is good for the entire day at every authorized establishment. The wristband enables a patron to obtain a DORA cup at each of the nearly dozen establishments participating in the program.

“The DORA has proven to be successful in Middletown,” Palenick said in his recommendation. “The city has been able to maintain public safety and sanitation in the area with limited problems or on-going concerns.”

He said the number of businesses within the DORA have continued to increase.

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“During the COVID-19 pandemic, the DORA has allowed customers to take their beverages outside and be socially distant from others, while still supporting Middletown businesses,” he said.

Jeff Payne, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc., said the expansion will open up new locations for additional downtown development.

“Bars try to be creative as possible and during the summer, they could have outdoor seating and tables,” he said. “They have had to struggle and they’ll continue to struggle.”

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John Langhorne of the Swire Inn said business has been slow because of COVID-19. He said the business was doing well with its rear patio until the weather changed. While there are not a lot of people walking around now, Langhorne said he thinks the expansion is positive.

“It’s going to take awhile, and COVID-19 isn’t helping because bars do their best business after 10 p.m. (a state curfew set by Gov. Mike DeWine),” he said. “It works well on First Fridays.”

Monica Nenni, the co-owner of West Central Wine on Central Avenue, said the downtown DORA has been adding businesses and that the proposed expansion “is a great show of support for businesses to include in our downtown.

Nenni, who is also a Middletown City Council member, remains optimistic that things will get better once the pandemic ends.

“It’s an investment in the future of business in Middletown,” she said.