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Outdoor drinking area draws mixed reaction in New Philadelphia

| February 14, 2024

NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (February 14, 2024) – City officials this week heard mixed reactions to a proposal for a downtown outdoor drinking area.

Council members Monday said they are gathering more information. A few said so far it doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Dan Lanzer says Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORA) have been a huge success in places like Canton and Marietta. He says there are some misperceptions.

“I think the drunk in the street thing is just kind of the Appalachian mindset,” Lanzer said. “They think that you’re going to have a beer garden and everybody is going to get trashed and people are going to be laying around. And this is really not what this is. This is sealed containers you can take into another establishment.

“This is more about being able to have a beverage – a wine or … a margarita – while you’re watching the bands play on the square or you’re checking the art out on the alley.”

Residents who spoke at a committee meeting and a City Council meeting Monday cautioned against it. Kerry Metzger, chairman of the Empower Tusc substance abuse prevention coalition, worried about setting a bad example for kids by loosening restrictions on substance use.

“As you weaken that, the youth look at it in a perception that it’s not harmful,” he said.

Ray Avenue resident Dale Burk agreed.

“I’m really concerned about what kind of message are we sending to children because in schools we tell our children, ‘Stay away from drugs. Stay away from alcohol.’ And then as adults we’re saying it’s OK and it’s necessary to have fun.”

Metzger also mentioned trash and crime.

Downtown business owner Jim Knisely says leaders in other cities say those haven’t been problems. He’s part of the group that proposed the DORA and he’s spoken to leaders in other cities that have them.

“I did not hear from any of those cities that we had some of the problems that have been brought up here today,” Knisely said.

The DORA would cover several downtown blocks that include seven bars. Patrons would have to use designated cups purchased and filled at one of the establishments. Council members say they will meet several more times to discuss the proposal.

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