Middletown theater hopes drinking area expansion will help its change to dinner theater-style shows

Starting in early March, Middletown’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area will expand by two blocks east along Central Avenue.

Middletown City Council on Tuesday approved expanding the area by 1.6 acres that will include the Middletown Lyric Theater. The expansion will go into effect in March.

The new expanded DORA will be bounded by Central Avenue, Garfield Street, Philadelphia Avenue and Curtis Street.

According to city officials, the Middletown Lyric Theater has taken steps to modify its programming to present more of a dinner theater style calendar, to acquire both liquor and food service licenses and begin to offer package deals that would include admission to the DORA at the conclusion of the evening’s program.

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Officials said the purpose of the DORA is to facilitate participants to “walk and enjoy the downtown,” and this change could bring more people to visit downtown Middletown.

Since Jan. 1, bar patrons have been charged $1 for a wristband that allows them to take their alcoholic beverages outside within the city’s DORA district. Those consuming an alcoholic beverage without the dated wristband or DORA cup could be cited for having an open container. The rules also do not allow people to bring their own beverages into that area and drink there.

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Last year, council approved extending the operating hours and days of the DORA district to make them more consistent with other DORA areas in Ohio. Those hours are from noon to midnight every day of the week. However, the DORA operating hours can be extended for special events on the recommendation of the police chief and council approval.

In late December 2015, downtown Middletown’s DORA district was the first authorized by the state of Ohio. Since then, Middletown officials said other Ohio cities have created their own DORA districts or have contacted Middletown officials for information and advice periodically.

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