Committee considers “outdoor refreshment area”

By Josh Ellerbrock -

LIMA — The City of Lima Neighborhood Concerns Committee wants to know if downtown organizations outside of drinking establishments are interested in creating an Outdoor Refreshments Area (ORA) that would allow bar patrons to walk to different downtown locations while carrying alcoholic beverages.

The idea was originally brought to council by bar owner Ray Magnus as a way to encourage individuals to head downtown and enjoy the nightlife. Magnus owns Ray’s Place, and he is opening up a whiskey bar on North Main Street.

“I think it’s something we need to do to bring Lima into the 21st century,” Magnus said.

Under state law, an ORA basically exempts individuals walking in those areas from the open container law. In practice, cities such as Toledo, Hamilton and Canton have created such areas and used them to help develop the downtown. Lima could potentially make a similar move in creating a space that could be custom-tailored to fit the city’s downtown needs.

But before they get too far ahead with hashing out the details, Committee Chair Jamie Dixon said the committee wants to make sure everyone involved, such as the Veterans Civic & Convention Center, Downtown Inc. and ArtSpace Lima has a voice in the consideration.

During the first hour of discussion by the committee, councilors identified a few potential issues with the ORA. Sanitary and public safety concerns were highest on the list, and those in attendance agreed that officers need to be involved in the planning stages. Police Chief Kevin Martin said if the ORA is limited to weekend nights, it would be possible to organize off-duty officers to be on hand in downtown at those times — especially if any funds were recouped by the city through extra charges on businesses benefiting from the ORA.

To officially establish the area, Mayor David Berger would need to write the official application, which would later need council approval. For the time being, council can only recommend that the mayor take on the project. The public would also have a chance to comment on the plan if it moves forward.

City of Lima Chief of Staff Sheretta Smith said city administration had taken no official position on the ORA proposal as of Monday.

In related news, the neighborhood concerns committee also discussed some property owners’ use of tarps to patch leaky roofs. Brought to committee by Councilor Derry Glenn, Glenn explained that the city needs some kind of law in place to curb the use of tarps as a solution instead of a stop-gap measure against roof damages.

Community Development Director Susan Crotty said the city already cites owners who utilize tarps, and while some cases are resolved over time, others continue despite citations.

Dixon said council plans to continue talking about both initiatives — the ORA and roof tarps — in another meeting of the committee to be announced.

By Josh Ellerbrock

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.

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