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

Nearly a half-dozen downtown establishments that currently serve alcoholic beverages were issued permits on Wednesday to serve those beverages starting Thursday in the city’s new Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA).

Middletown is the first city in Ohio to have successfully created such a district since the law was passed earlier this year.

David VanArsdale, the city’s public safety director, said Ohio Division of Liquor Control representatives were delivering the new permits to the establishments on Wednesday. He has worked with the owners of the various establishments to create the new district that covers a half-mile section of downtown.

VanArsdale said Forest Hills Country Club, American Legion Post 218, the Canal House Bar & Grille, Murphy’s Landing and At the Square were to receive their new permits Wednesday.

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.

City officials said the DORA’s area can be adjusted as necessary and that City Council can eliminate the district if necessary if there are problems.

“They can operate (during the specified hours) as soon as they get their new permits,” VanArsdale said. “I think it will be a good economic boost for the city. It will bring in some visitors to the city and give people in Middletown a reason to stay here for their dining and entertainment pleasure.”

While this would be an open container area, the beverages would be required to be purchased at specially licensed establishments within the DORA, he 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 have said that public intoxication ordinances would be enforced as well as open container law for people bringing in their own beverages.

VanArsdale said the establishments will have to sell the alcoholic beverages in a “distinctively marked cup or a sticker on a beer bottle.

When asked if they will ring in the new year using the new open container district, Linda Moorman of Murphy’s Landing said, “Absolutely.”

“We’re going to start the new year right,” Moorman said. “We’ll have a new adventure downtown. It will be good… We’re going to party on the sidewalk.”

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.

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