Change would double number of OTR liquor permits

Posted at 9:17 AM, Nov 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-30 09:17:56-05

CINCINNATI — The potential for new bars and restaurants in Over-the-Rhine could double in 2016 if Cincinnati City Council agrees to divide the neighborhood’s current community entertainment district into two.

Council’s Neighborhoods Committee, chaired by Vice Mayor David Mann, is scheduled to hold a public hearing Dec. 16 at 1 p.m. to discuss two emergency ordinances that would create an “OTR East Community Entertainment District” and an “OTR West Community Entertainment District.” That move could increase the number of possible liquor permits issued by the Ohio Department of Liquor Control to businesses in OTR from its current limit of 15 to 30.

A community entertainment district, as defined by Ohio law, is a specially designated zone of similar businesses -- such as sports venues, restaurants and bars -- often used to spur economic growth. A district also allows for a greater concentration of businesses serving alcohol in the designated area compared to neighborhoods without such a district.

OTR's current entertainment district reached its state-mandated cap of 15 permits this year, according to Cincinnati attorney Brad Thomas.

Thomas is representing the Corporation of Findlay Market, the business that applied for the creation of the OTR West Community Entertainment District. Main Street OTR petitioned council for the creation of eastern district, according to city documents. Vine Street would act as the divide between the new districts, according to zoning maps filed with the city.

Thomas said Findlay applied for the new district hoping that an influx of new liquor permits would attract and retain “new restaurants, taverns and retail establishments” north of Liberty Street.

"Basically, around Findlay, south of Liberty, is doing very well, but north of Findlay with the streetcar coming, they need some more anchors up there," Thomas said -- anchors that include projects such as the Findlay Market Incubator Kitchen. A liquor permit would allow the kitchen the flexibility to "do dinners there" and stay open later by serving alcohol, Thomas noted.

Thomas said he figures that excluding existing liquor permit holders, the western district would have about seven more permits available to it and the east about eight.

City council could establish the new districts on Dec. 16 if the ordinances are approved by Mann and fellow neighborhood committee members Wendell Young, Kevin Flynn and Yvette Simpson after the public hearing. Businesses could apply for the new liquor permits by year’s end.

A message was left with Mann's office seeking comment.