Voters approve Sunday alcohol in Monroe entertainment district

Monroe officials can take a proactive step to recruit more businesses now that residents have voted to permit liquor sales in the city’s I-75 Community Entertainment District on Sundays.

Created by Monroe City Council in 2015 as a way to encourage development on vacant land around the interchange, the 348-acre district stretches along Ohio 63 from the Cincinnati Premium Outlets in Warren County through Union Road on the Butler County side. The state sanctioned the CED in 2015.

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Having available liquor permits is important for future restaurant and similar uses, and Monroe has very few available permits outside of the entertainment district, officials said.

By approving the ballot issue with 74.3 percent of the vote, residents green-lighted the creation of 15 new liquor licenses to be issued for the sale of beer, wine and liquor until 2:30 a.m. for qualified developments within the district’s boundary.

That will help the city better market available land to restaurants and other businesses, according to Jennifer Patterson, Monroe’s assistant to the city manager.

“As we look to grow our interchange and have the type of amenities that our residents and our businesses are looking for, one of the obstacles we identified was that the city was dry for Sunday sales,” Patterson said. “We saw a challenge and we’re taking steps to bring in the type of uses that our residents and businesses have told us they want.”

All businesses must apply for a liquor license on a case-by-case basis but, previously, restaurants also needed to put a separate option on the ballot for Sunday alcohol sales.

“We took a proactive approach on this and decided that if somehow we could take the whole district to a vote and then we could take care of everything all at once at that interchange, it removes a potential hurdle for future development,” Patterson said.

State law allows one liquor permit for every five acres in a Community Entertainment District and limits a CED to 15 overall. In addition, the law requires a minimum amount — $70 million — that needs to have been invested inside the CED’s boundaries. Monroe officials estimate that the outlet mall and other infrastructure improvements already are at $100 million.

Most options approved

The majority of local options on the ballot in Butler County garnered voter approval, including yet-to-open Rivertown Brewing Company in Monroe, Johnson’s Market in Fairfield Twp. and The Wine List in West Chester Twp.

Also approved were local options for Middletown businesses Billy T’s, Veracruz Mexican Restaurant and University Express, plus a local option for downtown Middletown in the 9th precinct of its First Ward, an area that is slightly less than half a square mile.

Local attraction loses option bid

Land of Illusion in Madison Twp. saw 56 percent of voters cast a ballot to defeat its attempt at Sunday sales.

The move to put the measure on the ballot came after many season pass-holders requested it, said Brett Oakley, president of the seasonal attraction.

Oakley said because many people work six days a week and odd shifts, he was hoping to accommodate patron wishes to come out and watch a sports game and grab a beer on a Sunday night.

A local option also would have helped the community via increased tax revenue, he said.

Oakley, a volunteer firefighter for 27 years, said he thought the community would support the measure, but now that it has not “we understand that.”

He said had the measure been approved, he would have expanded Sunday hours to include both September and October instead of only October.