Oregon District could be ‘most popular outdoor drinking area’ in Ohio, mayor says

The Oregon District could be less than one week away from getting approval to let people drink outside of bars on the street and sidewalks.

City leaders on Wednesday had the first reading of an ordinance that would establish East Fifth Street in the Oregon District as a new outdoor drinking area, or Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORA).

If approved by city commissioners next week, the new drinking district will allow patrons of participating bars, restaurants and other businesses to carry and sip their beer, wine and cocktails outside.

Outdoor drinking areas have been very popular in other cities, especially some hot-spot tourist destinations, like Nashville, Las Vegas, Memphis and New Orleans.

MORE: Dayton could soon decide on outdoor drinking area in Oregon District

But many other U.S. cities that don’t have the same hard-partying reputations as those places have similar drinking areas, including about two dozen Ohio communities, such as Middletown, Canton, Toledo, Fairborn, Springfield and Hamilton.

Supporters say they think outdoor drinking will result in increased interest and activity in the Oregon District, boosting street-level vibrancy.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley says she thinks the Oregon District will become the most popular outdoor drinking area in the state.

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Following a public hearing on Wednesday, Dayton city commissioners had the first reading of an ordinance that would create a new Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area along East Fifth Street in the Oregon District.

If commissioners approve the ordinance at next week’s meeting, it will go into effect 30 days later.

But city staff say establishing the new district won’t happen that quickly, because new signage and containers need acquired and installed and other steps are needed.

The drinking area will not be ready until later this spring.

The city received a petition asking to create the new refreshment area from the Oregon District Business Association.

Multiple businesses signed the petition including the Trolley Stop, Toxic Brew Co., Ned Peppers, Hole in the Wall, Blind Bob’s and Lily’s Bistro.

Businesses participating in the refreshment area will sell special cups that patrons can take outside.

Drinks taken outdoors cannot be brought into other bars and alcohol-serving establishments.

But they will be able to be taken inside businesses that do not serve alcohol that formally welcome drink-carrying shoppers, officials said.

The proposed refreshment area stretches from South Main Street to Bainbridge Street.

To the west, it includes the Dayton Convention Center and the Crowne Plaza Dayton. The boundary goes past Franco’s Ristorante Italiano to the east.

The railroad overpass would the drinking area’s northern boundary, and to the southeast, it ends at Bainbridge and Jones streets, past Crafted & Cured.

A large section of Oregon East also would be included in the refreshment area.

The outdoor refreshment area will operate noon to midnight everyday, except during Hauntfest (the last Saturday of October) and St. Patrick’s Day (March 17).

MORE: How Middletown led Ohio’s boom in outdoor drinking areas

In 2015, the state passed new legislation allowing the establishment of designated outdoor drinking areas in Ohio cities, and cities Dayton’s size are allowed to create two outdoor drinking areas.

City staff reached out to cities in the region and others statewide that have outdoor drinking areas to get feedback, and generally they had few concerns, said Tony Kroeger, Dayton’s planning manager.

“Across the board they reported there are not major problems or challenges with such a district and in fact find it to be an asset,” Kroeger said.

If approved, the drinking district’s operations would be reviewed after one year and five years.

The city commission could choose to discontinue the refreshment area at any time if there are problems, though that’s not anticipated, Kroeger said.

The Oregon District Business Association worked with residential neighbors to develop a plan that was right for the neighborhood, said Emily Mendenhall, the owner of Lily’s Bistro.

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