Supporters would pay for special drinking districts

Dayton moves closer to allowing open-container areas.

Groups that want to create an outdoor drinking district in Dayton will have to show how they plan to pay for beefed up sanitation and security services.

And, if an area is granted a designation, it will be subject to annual reviews and license revocation for bad behavior.

Last month, Gov. John Kasich signed into law legislation that allows cities of Dayton’s size to create two outdoor drinking districts that are exempt from the state’s open container laws.

On Wednesday, Dayton inched closer to allowing an open-container district in the city when commissioners asked for a resolution to set policies regulating the application and approval process.

The review process will seek input from stakeholders and ensure a district’s organizers have a plan to pay for policing and clean-up, city officials said.

Under the city’s plan, the permit for outdoor drinking districts will be reviewed every year, similar to standard liquor licenses.

“This isn’t just flipping a light switch on and off,” said City Manager Warren Price. “We’re trying to get applicants to understand some of the issues that are associated with this.”

Under the new state law, applications for an “outdoor refreshment area” designation must contain a map that identifies the district’s boundaries, a description of the businesses in the area, evidence the zoning and land use align and a plan for protecting public health and safety.

Outdoor drinking districts must have at least four alcohol-permit holders, and state law limits their size to 320 contiguous acres, officials said.

The city identified downtown and Brown Street as areas that have enough qualified permit holders to meet the law’s requirements. Most of downtown could fit into 320 acres, and officials said any district in the city would be much smaller than that.

During a work session, Dayton staff recommended the city require applicants to submit a map of the proposed area, as well as the addresses in the district.

Applicants also would be required to collect input from city departments, neighborhood groups and others.

“The onus is on petitioners to work with the city organization,” said Tony Kroeger, a city of Dayton planner.

Applicants also would need to submit an implementation plan, spelling out what sanitation and security measures they will use to address trash and safety issues stemming from outdoor revelry.

The plans will have to include the district’s hours and days of operation, and how they intend to pay for the district’s security and clean-up needs.

The petitions will be reviewed by staff from the police, law, planning, economic development and public works departments, Kroeger said.

Petitions will be evaluated based on the implementation plans, input from stakeholders, long-term impact on health and safety and other factors, officials said.

The review committee will submit a report to the city manager, who determines whether to send the petition to city commission for a vote, Kroeger said.

The city would have the right to revoke the outdoor refreshment area permit if the district is operating in a manner “contrary to the public good,” Kroeger said.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley directed staff to draft a resolution outlining key details of the application and review process.

Whaley also said the resolution should require city management to review and evaluate refreshment area permits every year, which is standard policy for alcohol licenses.

“We can give and take away as we see fit, right?” Whaley said.

The city also released some cost estimates for items and services needed to police and clean the districts.

Outdoor drinking districts need signage to clarify their boundaries, with each sign costing about $30, officials said.

Districts would need additional litter and recycling containers, which in total could run $9,000 to $18,000, depending on the number of bins, staff said.

Drinking districts could require road closures, which often require 20 street barricades at a cost of $500 each, officials said.

Public works staff also would have to remove trash in the districts when the operating hours end, and at least eight staff would need to work overtime to get the job done, officials said.

Every day of a drinking district’s operation would roughly run about $1,000 in public works personnel costs, which includes about five hours of overtime per employee, said Fred Stovall, Dayton’s director of public works.

Most entertainment districts operate during the evening on the weekends.

And then there are security needs.

A district could hire private security guards, but their policing powers are limited.

“If there were any issues, the police would still need to be called in,” said Shelley Dickstein, assistant city manager. “We recommend that the area be contracted with extra police officers (working) overtime.”

The Dayton Police Department has about 258 officers and detectives who are eligible to work overtime. That overtime should be paid by the district, officials said.

However, Dickstein said the police department lacks the personnel to staff drinking districts and major special events downtown at the same time, such as the Fourth of July celebration.