Middletown looking to extend outdoor drinking district for 5 more years

Middletown City Council unanimously approved the continuance of Ohio’s first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area for another five years as well as the expansion of the boundaries.

Council’s decision to continue the DORA will now go to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control for final approval.

Susan Cohen, city administrative services director, informed council in a staff report that Ohio law requires a review of the operation of the DORA area five years after it was created.

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

She said the number of businesses within the DORA area have continued to grow and now has about a dozen downtown businesses participating. The DORA has allowed customers to take their beverages outside and be socially distant from others, while still supporting Middletown businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the city created the DORA in 2015, council has amended the DORA ordinance twice. The two amendments included lengthening the hours of operation from noon to midnight daily and extending the eastern boundary along Central Avenue.

The ordinance to continue the DORA area also includes a request from the city Economic Development Department to expand the southern boundary about three acres to include N.E.W. Ales on First Avenue.

The new expansion of the DORA will include the block bounded by Philadelphia Avenue, Garfield Street, First Avenue and Baltimore Street.

Cohen said the financial impact to the city will be minimal for new signage at the new boundary and additional trash receptacles in the expanded area.

Jeff Payne, executive director of Downtown Middletown Inc., said continuing the DORA “is really positive for downtown.”

“The DORA is a very effective economic development tool,” Payne said. “Over the COVID-19 period, it was a real lifesaver for a number of downtown bars and restaurants. This (continuance) will help us in our recovery from the pandemic.”

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