Lebanon wants to add outdoor drinking to downtown district

A 46.1-acre entertainment district where people will be able to drink alcohol beverages outdoors is close to being designated in downtown Lebanon.

The Lebanon City Council voted 6-1 last week to change local ordinances to permit the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in a roughly square area centered by the city's downtown business district.

Councilman Doug Shope said he voted against the changes out of “principle” and concerns the changes would send “young people” the message: “In order to be able to relax and enjoy yourself, there has to be alcohol involved.”

Shope said he voted against the rules, while confident the other council members had only the best intentions.

“They are doing what they believe to be best to keep our city vibrant and vital,” Shope said at the Nov. 26 meeting.

No one else commented at the meeting, apparently ending about four months of discussion and debate of the issue.

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“The creation of a DORA will provide additional economic enhancement for attracting patrons to Downtown Lebanon and highlight the area as a destination for dining and entertainment,” according to the application submitted to the Ohio Liquor Control Board.

Under the new rules, open containers of beer, wine or mixed drinks will also be permitted in Bicentennial Park, Christmas Tree Park, Gazebo Park and Cedar City Park.

The rules will be in effect Monday through Thursday from 6 p.m. to midnight, Friday from 5 p.m. to midnight and “Saturday through Sunday” from noon to midnight, according to the application.

Signs will mark the perimeter beyond which alcoholic beverages in open containers will still be illegal. Within DORAs, the adult beverages must be contained in special cups.

The city will be able to “temporarily suspend” the rules for special events and festivals, where street vendors will still be able to sell beer and other alcoholic beverages for consumption on the street.

MORE: 6 ways Ohio alcohol restrictions have been loosened in the last decade

Next, officials from the city, Lebanon Chamber of Commerce and Main Street Lebanon organization will meet with businesses within the DORA that serve alcoholic beverages to educate them on guidelines and distribution of “designated DORA cups,” City Manager Scott Brunka said in email responses.

The state law permits DORAs of up to 150 acres. Cities including Springfield, Mason, Middletown and Hamilton have them within their municipal boundaries.

Liberty Center, a planned community in Butler County, already has one in place. One has been proposed in Dayton’s Oregon District.

MORE: Middletown’s open container district open in time for New Year’s Eve 2016

Lebanon’s DORA effort is part of a broader initiative, including the Think Downtown Master Plan, undertaken to encourage people to visit the city’s downtown to eat, drink and shop.

In addition to nine businesses with state liquor licenses included in the initial proposed area, the 46.1-acre Lebanon DORA is to include the Soul Sidekick Studio at the Corner of Main and Cherry streets and the Kings Bar and Grill on West Mulberry Street “whose owners requested to be included in the area as part of our public discussion process,” according to Brunka.

When the rules take effect hinges on state approval and “the readiness of the local businesses to proceed,” Brunka said.

“We anticipate rolling out the DORA in January / February with a more significant DORA marketing effort as part of the March Girls Night Out event,” Brunka added.

MORE: Microbrewery 1st to offer DORA cups in Springfield

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