Open-container district ready in time for NYE

Posted at 12:31 AM, Dec 31, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-31 00:31:06-05

MIDDLETOWN, Ohio -- Middletown will be the first city in Ohio to have an open-container district starting Thursday, when customers from five downtown establishments can take their alcoholic drinks outdoors and onto the sidewalks.

Forest Hills Country Club, American Legion Post 218, the Canal House Bar & Grille, Murphy’s Landing and At the Square got new permits as part of Middletown's half-mile district, the Journal-News reported. They were delivered Wednesday.

More formally called a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, the district allows patrons from those five downtown businesses to walk around outside with their drinks -- but they can't go into another business. People can't bring in alcoholic beverages from elsewhere, either: The five businesses will have to sell their drinks in a marked cup or with a sticker on the bottle, the Journal-News reported.

Middletown officials set up the district after the Ohio General Assembly passed a bill last spring allowing cities and townships to create open-container districts. Because of its population, Middletown is able to create one district; cities with more than 50,000 residents could create two areas. A Senate amendment also would permit cities with populations of 35,000 or less to create one district if certain conditions are met.

Cincinnati officials had urged state lawmakers to swiftly pass the measure in anticipation of last summer's All-Star Game festivities, with hopes of creating an open-container district at The Banks; however, Cincinnati's open-container district has yet to materialize.

The Journal-News reported Middletown's open-container district will operate under restricted hours: generally, 6 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. But city leaders could add other times through the police chief and City Council.

Middletown officials said, if the district isn't working out as planned, the Middletown City Council could eliminate the district.

Read more about Middletown's open-container district at The Journal-News, a WCPO media partner.