Lebanon debates creating outdoor drinking area

Lebanon City Council is split over designating an area of the city for outdoor drinking.

Under state law, most recently updated in March, participating businesses could serve alcoholic beverages in plastic cups suitable for carrying outside into the designated area.

In Lebanon, council members including Jeff Aylor embraced the creation of a Designated Refreshment Area in the city’s historic downtown.

“There are places all over the world that do this. It is very safe,” Aylor said Tuesday during a work session.

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While others withheld final judgment, Councilman Doug Shope said, “I won’t vote for it, out of personal conviction and conscience.”

Across Ohio, cities including nearby Mason, Middletown and Hamilton have established areas where people can walk around carrying open containers with beer or other alcohol libations during designated time periods.

Dayton is weighing the idea, while Liberty Center, a planned community in Butler County, already has one in place.

Lebanon has spent racetrack redevelopment funds on improvements designed to manage and encourage visitors for festivals and other events, often held on a stretch of East Mulberry Street in downtown.

City Manager Scott Brunka unveiled preliminary boundaries including sections of East and West Mulberry north and south Broadway, to include businesses already serving drinks including the Golden Lamb Inn, as well as a former shoe factory where a microbrewery has been proposed.

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The city would have to petition the state for a DORA designation, awarded after a 30-day discussion period, Brunka said.

Ryan Tasseff, a local business owner, submitted results of a petition of business owners on East Mulberry in support of creating a DORA.

Representatives from the local chamber of commerce and Main Street Lebanon expressed support, while one resident expressed opposition.

Law Director Mark Yurick said users would be able to take their cups home, but would be required to buy new ones for each visit and stay out of other bars and restaurants participating emptying the contents.

Only alcoholic refreshments served from the participating businesses would be permitted in the cups.

“Is it foolproof? Probably not,” Yurick said.

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Cities or townships with more than 50,000 people such as Dayton, Springfield, Hamilton and Kettering could create two outdoor drinking districts. Places with 35,000 to 50,000 residents could have one of the designated districts. Smaller communities get no drinking areas.

Councilwoman Krista Wyatt expressed concern that bars and restaurants along Columbus Avenue would be left out.

“How does this benefit the overall community?” she asked.

Brunka and Mayor Amy Brewer said Police Chief Jeff Mitchell indicated other area DORAs have operated without law enforcement problems.

Brewer said the designated area would draw additional people to Lebanon and its downtown businesses.

“That benefits the entire community,” she said.

However Brewer conceded more study was needed before moving forward.

“We really need to look at this,” she said.

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