Council considers alcohol permit for downtown

By Sheryl Roadcap -

SIDNEY ‚ Sidney City Council discussed an unconventional idea for Sidney on Monday evening — consideration of a permit for the consumption of alcohol on public property.

Jason Levering, owner of Lev’s Brew House on South Ohio Avenue, submitted a Right of Way (ROW) Use permit application for the construction of a fenced-in seating area on the sidewalk in front of his business. The permit would allow his patrons to consume alcoholic beverages in the fenced-in area.

A permit for outdoor seating can be granted administratively, said City Manager Mark Cundiff, but for an alcohol consumption permit to be granted, council must pass a resolution. Currently, a city ordinance exists prohibiting the consumption of alcohol “in or upon the public streets or alleys … or any publicly owned premises within the city,” except at the fairgrounds, unless council enacts a resolution.

If passed, the change would be cohesive with a potential future Entertainment District Sidney is applying for in 2017 that would allow “folks to walk openly” with alcohol consumption downtown.

The overall consensus of council was favorable for the permit, but with reservations.

A year ago, council briefly discussed the subject for the temporary use of a public sidewalk for a one day permit during the Great Downtown BBQ-Fest from noon to 9 p.m. on July 18, 2015, located on the courtsquare for downtown businesses with valid liquor permits. The intent was for those attending the festival to be able to eat and drink outside, within a temporary fencing, while listening to the music on the square. However, due to “timing issues” prior to the event, no permit was issued.

Cundiff said Levering would like to have this permit in time for this year’s BBQ-Fest. Levering’s request however, is for more than one day; he is seeking “more of a permanent seating area” permit.

“I envision a day that we have a bike trail that goes past Brew Nation, past our county’s beautiful Courthouse, past The Spot and is eventually tied into the nation’s largest dedicated bike path, and I believe this is the perfect opportunity to begin exploring this option to help bring downtown Sidney alive and celebrate this citizen’s initiative,” said Councilman Joe Ratermann.

Councilman Steve Wagner and Vice Mayor Mardi Milligan agreed with Ratermann — as did Councilman Darryl Thurber, yet expressed apprehension of rushing long-term decisions.

Mayor Mike Barhorst spoke of “concern” for downtown businesses to “coalesce” in determining how best to move forward, and wanted to ensure things happen in an “orderly fashion” so the city maintains control over what happens.

Law Director/Prosecuting Attorney Jeffery Amick warned council to initially take a “bare-bones” approach when issuing a permit without having adequate time to thoroughly think through the fine details for the long term. He recommended issuing a temporary permit and to advise Levering regulations may completely change after council has more time for further consideration.

Wagner apologized on behalf of Levering for his absence. He was unaware the request would be discussed that evening since it was not initially on the agenda and he had a prior obligation. Wagner informed council that Levering had already spoken with other downtown business owners and to Sidney Alive’s committee member Amy Zorn, in an attempt to communicate with those who may be affected.

After an extended conversation, council unanimously agreed to direct Amick to draw up legislation for a seasonal permit with stipulations for grounds of revocation if problems arise from patrons walking away with open containers or littering the surroundings.

In other topics discussed, Wagner said he was approached by citizens unhappy about the “unsightly” over-spraying of paint performed by the city on curbs and asked Assistant Manager/Public Works Director Gary Clough if it was possible to remove it. Clough said it would be very difficult and time consuming to remove because there is “nothing very effective for taking it off,” but ensured Wagner there will be no more issues of over-spraying because they are roller painting now, instead.

Police Chief Will Balling thanked council and Cundiff for “allowing” him to hire the new officer, Ethan Brown, several months ago, for the long-term. Brown just graduated from the OSP Academy at the top of his class on Friday June, 24.

Barhorst thanked the sponsors for the fireworks including American Legion Post 217, Wilson Health, Emerson Climate Technologies, Buckeye Ford, NK Telco, S&S Hospitality Management, Realty 2000 and Kroger.

Cundiff reminded council that city offices will be closed on Monday, July 5, and trash pick-up will be delayed one day all next week in observance of Independence Day.

By Sheryl Roadcap

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.

Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.