On limiting liquor licenses in the Oregon District

This will piss off about 100 people- and that’s perfectly OK- the rest of us can see the big picture.
The Dayton Business Journal Mar 10, 2006 cover headline “Battle brewing over Oregon District liquor permit” is history repeating itself. It’s time to stop this stupidity once and for all.
Brief history: The “Oregon District“ is a small chunk of what was once called “Burns Jackson” a big area just South and East of the center city (notice I’m not calling it Downtown- because I believe Oregon is Downtown) that was carved into pieces by the building of US 35 in the Sixties. I live in South Park– the southern part of that divide.
Back in the seventies- the area around East Fifth Street and Wayne was known as Filth and Wine by some, because of it’s seedy, flop house, image. The glorious old homes had been turned into slums. Bars, porn and pawn shops filled the area.
A small group of young visionaries started moving in and fixing up the 180 or so homes- and got the area declared a Federally designated Historic District- protecting the homes from being torn down, or “modernized” The area began to prosper, but the bars were still a problem. With limited parking, patrons would flock to the bars and stumble out to their cars and disrupt the lives of the homesteaders. Note, the bars were there before the “preservationists” moved in.
To try to cut down on any more bars opening- the neighborhood negotiated a “cap” of 17 liquor licenses in the district. The number had no real significance other than that was the current number of liquor serving dives that were open.
In 1995, Glen Brailey found a loophole in the limit- by applying for a permit that had been put on hiatus for over a year- and began to open Pacchia– a upscale pizza restaurant with a wood burning stove. This was a far cry from pouring shots into people’s mouths while sitting in a dentist chair.
The neighborhood screamed, yelled, threw tantrums- about their “limit”- but Pacchia opened. I was very much a part of that opening; my ad agency, The Next Wave created the branding and the buzz around the opening. At the sneak preview- the very same people who bitched about the license- were there, eating and drinking the complimentary food and drink.
As far as I know- no Pacchia patrons were ever arrested in the Oregon District for any kind of misbehavior. The restaurant was rocking right from the start. There were 2 hour waits for a table almost every night- it was the place to be seen for a business lunch. And soon- we had Coco’s and Café Boulevard opening up- often paying 30x what a liquor licenses should have cost because of the arbitrary restriction of 17. The limit was actually protecting the value of the licenses to the types of businesses the neighbors didn’t want.
When “What you eat” a tiny vegetarian restaurant wanted a license- there was another fight- with the neighbors once again up in arms about drunks running through their neighborhood. I was working with Stacy Yale, the owner, on helping her secure a license- to sell organic wine to go with her macrobiotic and vegan fare. After spending way too much money and nine-months of unnecessary bullshit because of these few homeowners- “What you Eat” was granted a permit as well- still under the 17 license limit. The battle was too much for a small business woman- and she soon sold her restaurant and hard earned license to Greg Fitzgerald who opened another fine restaurant- The Blue Moon. Again, the very same neighbors who complained about the licenses- could be seen sitting in their beautiful new restaurants drinking martinis and eating bleu cheese stuffed steaks.
So when the owner of Thai 9, yet another fine restaurant that has added to the value of the Oregon District as Dayton’s premier collection of independently owned restaurants- applies for a license to sell alcohol from a carry-out, and the neighbors- are still worried about bums drinking ripple and lying in the gutters- come out, it’s time to say SHUT THE F*%K UP. (I’m sorry- but this is getting really old).
Since Pacchia and the other restaurants have opened- property values have practically tripled, with homes selling for over $300,000 and one million dollar conversion of the old Southern Belle bar into a mansion.
The other fact is- the liquor serving establishment’s shouldn’t be held accountable for their patrons actions. That is the responsibility of the police and the city. If you get drunk, and you walk into the neighborhood singing at the top of your lungs- you should get arrested for disturbing the peace. If you are pissing in the yard- you should be arrested. It’s quite simple- these are police issues- not reasons to limit the number of places that provide beer and alcohol.
This small minority of people, with misplaced priorities- and a total lack of understanding what makes their homes more valuable is making the rest of us look like morons. There are historic districts that have no bars or restaurants- if you don’t like living next to Dayton’s party district- move. It’s been that way for the last 20 plus years.
It’s time for the Mayor and the City Commission to actively step in and remove all limits to the number of licenses in the district by designating it an “Entertainment district” much like they did with area around Fifth Third Field.
It’s also time to either build a sky-bridge from the Transportation Center garage over to the Oregon District- or build another garage in the District.
To go a step further, maybe the EPA should be asked to vacate their office building; and it should be turned into an entertainment/concert complex, and all zoning requirements for parking should be removed- so that every building can be utilized to finish what started 35 years ago.
The City Commission in the past has been as stupid as the neighbors by coming up with “solutions” that actually cause more harm than good in dealing with problems in the area. To combat motorcyclists who liked to rev their engines- they changed the way you were supposed to park your bike to one bike per space- parked like a car- instead of ticketing for the noise ordinance. So now, instead of having 500 patrons on bikes who take up less than 100 parking spots- the businesses all suffer when the bikers go to Quaker Steak and Lube in Fairborn and spend their money where they are welcome.
For all the talk of bringing business to downtown and the city, seeing this story once again in the headlines is proof that our leadership is failing us with a simple lack of spine and common sense.

What do you think?

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