Liberty Center has applied for Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) status with the township. This rooftop garden at Liberty Center has a spiral walkway, Sabin Hall, TriHealth Triumph gardens and Unity Chapel and Kona Grill near The Square. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

What would outdoor drinking be like at Liberty Center? Hamilton, Middletown talk about their programs

If approved, people who visit places like the Kona Grill, Cooper’s Hawk and other restaurants in the center area could drink alcoholic beverages beyond the doors of the eateries and in stores while shopping.

RELATED: Hamilton’s legal outdoor drinking program a hit with Alive After 5 crowd

The application was filed Friday and says the designation fits within the township’s comprehensive plan and will boost economic development.

“The DORA designation complements this vision and will enhance the growth and development of the area,” the document reads. “It’s anticipated the DORA will foster continued interest and investment in Liberty Center.”

Outdoor drinking would be allowed from noon to midnight daily, and there will be about 22 signs telling people where they can and can’t take their adult beverages, according to the plan. Special DORA cups that include the rules would be the only authorized    drink containers outdoors. Retailers would have placards to indicate whether they want drinking in their stores or not.

“Toss it! DORA drinks not permitted” and “Yes! DORA drinks welcome here” are two of the circular signs shopkeepers could display if the DORA designation passes.

By state law, patrons can’t bring their DORA drinks from one watering hole to another. The application also addresses safety concerns, noting that their private security company and the township’s contract with the Butler County Sheriff will ensure things don’t get out of hand, using foot, bicycle and vehicle patrols within the DORA. The safety plan would be reviewed monthly during the first six months to determine if tweaks are warranted.

Hamilton’s DORA program debuted last May, and Jim Goodman, part owner of Municipal Brew Works on High Street, said that rule has actually brought out the best in people.

He said a group of his customers were sitting on the patio having some drinks— they don’t sell wine — and their friends who wanted wine got their drinks from North Second Tap and Bottle, pulled up chairs outside the patio area so they could be together without breaking the rules.

MORE: New rules coming for Middletowns’s outdoor drinking area

“Nobody wanted to be the person that violated the rules around it, they wanted to respect those rules and they wanted to make sure that something like this is managed and respected,” Goodman said. “That was kind of a fun thing.”

Liberty Twp. Trustee Board President Steve Schramm said he personally isn’t a “traveling drinker” but he knows younger people like to stroll — and it would be an addition for the concerts and events held there — so he’ll support the issue when it comes time to vote.

“If they think it’ll help I’m going to back their call because we’re looking for as much opportunity as we can to support Liberty Center,” he said.

Trustee Christine Matacic said she’ll support the DORA as long as Liberty Center follows appropriate rules and regulations.

Sherry Hoskins, owner of Petals & Wicks on Main Street in Hamilton, said the new law has been a boon for her business.

“When they started DORA you definitely saw an increase in people out, mingling and going shopping and walking Main Street, visiting all the different shops,” she said. “It definitely has made a big impact on us.”

Middletown was the first city in Ohio to establish an outdoor drinking district after the legislature — hoping to spur economic development — allowed the exception to state liquor laws in 2015. Shelby Quinlivan, the city’s spokeswoman, said they have had no issues with their DORA.

“The hours of the DORA were recently extended and additional businesses have seen the value in the program and have asked to extend the area to include their location,” she said indicated the Middletown Lyric Theatre wants in.

There will be a public hearing on the issue March 5, a copy of the entire application can be found here: http://www.liberty-township.com/DocumentCenter/View/3763/Complete-DORA-Application-020119-FINAL.

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