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Middletown First In State To Apply For Outdoor Drinking Permit

Bill Rinehart

Middletown has become the first and only municipality in the state to submit paperwork for an Outdoor Refreshment Area. 

In April, Ohio lawmakers passed a bill allowing for the creation of Outdoor Refreshment Areas. Municipalities with a population of at least 35,000 can designate areas where open container rules are relaxed.

Cassandra Hicks with the Ohio Division of Liquor Control says the application process starts with a mayor or fiscal officer.

“They basically put together the information as to where they believe the outdoor refreshment area would be," Hicks says. "It has to be half a square mile. They are to list the types of establishments within the area, and they must have at least a minimum of four permit holders within the area."

And the area they designate can't have a conflict with zoning laws, Hicks says. 

Hicks says the approval of a district at the state level should only take about 30 days.  But she says the work at the local level takes a little more time.

“The application process that’s internal, within the municipality or the township, probably takes more time, in order to do that and get an agreement that they can handle the policing issues, in terms of public health and safety, as well as sanitation issues,” Hicks says. 

The law, commonly referred to as HB 47, does have other specifications. For instance, any alcoholic beverage carried out of an establishment within the designated area must be in a plastic bottle or cup.  Drinks purchased at one business cannot be taken into another. 

HB 47 also approved alcohol consumption by passengers on a “commercial quadricycle.”

Hicks says the Division of Liquor Control could have the Middletown ORA approved before the end of the year. A spokesperson for Middletown could not be reached for comment.

Cincinnati spokesman Rocky Merz says the city could have two ORAs. The law allows municipalities of 50,000 or more people to have two such zones. He says  there are discussions about creating an ORA at The Banks. 

Bill Rinehart started his radio career as a disc jockey in 1990. In 1994, he made the jump into journalism and has been reporting and delivering news on the radio ever since.