Bill Would Allow Open Container District Downtown

downtown bars
A bill proposed Thursday in the Ohio Senate would allow people to have open containers in designated areas known as entertainment districts.

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Imagine being able to drink an alcoholic beverage while walking down Federal Street in downtown Youngstown.

A bipartisan bill introduced in the Ohio Senate could give cities with more than 50,000 residents the ability to create open container districts. That district can be no bigger than a squared half mile, which would encompass most of downtown Youngstown.

“The state of Ohio is not saying  that every city over 50,000 can do this upon passage. They’re saying every city over 50,000 can make a decision for themselves whether or not they think this would be beneficial for their municipality,” said State Sen. Joe Schiavoni, D-Boardman.

Some think an entertainment district would bring more people to Youngstown.

“As long as it’s regulated and in a secured area and all the laws aren’t being broken, I think it would be fine,” said Youngstown resident Ken Altiero.

“It’s cool to think that a city with 50,000 people, you don’t have to be Las Vegas, you could just be Youngstown, Ohio and have something like this,” said Youngstown State University student Annalise Walkama. “I think it would be a real draw for people to come downtown.”

The entertainment districts would be similar to a city-regulated block party like St. Patrick’s Day downtown, meaning  revelers could only purchase alcohol from designated bars that have special permits.

“I don’t want people to think that the streets in Ohio are going to be turned into Bourbon Street overnight. It’s simply a permissive bill,” Schiavoni said.

The bill is in the very early stages. It still needs to pass in the Senate before moving onto the House. And even if it does pass, local leaders would still have the final say.

If it gains enough support, the bill could pass in the summer, but more likely the fall, and go into effect by year’s end.

The bill would allow cities with populations of 50,000 to 150,000 people such as Dayton and Canton to create one such district. Cities of 150,000 to 300,000 people, like Cincinnati, Toledo and Akron, could create two. The only two cities with more than 300,000 people, Columbus and Cleveland, could have three.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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