Tonight the Oregon Historic District Society’s board of trustees will hear from Jeff Gonya regarding The Rule of 17 and its impact on the Oregon Business District and the residential district.  What is this “Rule of 17” and why is it affecting the Oregon District?  According to Leslie Rosell Gonya, “Back in 1982 there was an initiative to vote the Oregon District dry. The city, in response to this, worked with the Oregon District and came up with a happy medium. Basically, instead of supporting a dry vote, it stated that there was a moratorium on liquor licenses (the magic number was 17 at the time), and the city would object to any new liquor permit application of any restaurant or tavern in the OD without the proper amount of parking that was designated in the zoning code. This later morphed into “saturation,” (which is a term of the Ohio Liquor Board meaning “too many licenses,” with regard to affecting the peace and sobriety of the neighborhood).”  The Oregon Historic District Society has more details and a timeline of the development of the Rule of 17 on the OHDS website.

Jeff and Leslie own Inn Port D’Vino and they have been trying to add wine and after-dinner drink service to their bed and breakfast for nearly a year. Their petition for a liquor license was approved by the State Liquor Commission but they have been mired in an appeal filed by the city because of an outdated agreement meant to appease homeowners in the early 80’s.  Since the informal resolution between the OHDS and the City Commission was made, there has been no comprehensive survey of residents’ opinions nor has there been public vote either by the residents of the Oregon Historic District or the dues-paying members of the OHDS on the Rule of 17.  The policy has not been updated or reconsidered in light of the growing competition from businesses in the suburbs such as the Greene.

One of the biggest blights of the City of Dayton is vacant buildings; Fifth Street has several.  The only way to make an investment in these derelict properties viable is improve the Oregon Business District.  The reality is that the Oregon District is (and markets itself as) an arts and entertainment district.  The businesses that will purchase and restore Fifth Street’s derelict properties are likely to be businesses that tap into the District’s existing identity.  Given that galleries are not businesses with high profit margins, it seems likely that restaurants and bars are the likely candidates to open in these properties, but for a restaurant, especially a high-end classy restaurant (the type of business both the OHDS and OBDA hope to attract) must have a liquor license to be competitive and succeed.

Las Americans mentioned in a Dayton Daily news article wanting to get a liquor license as well – who doesn’t enjoy a margarita on a patio… There is also a rumor that the famed Meadowlark considered moving to the old Gem City Records space on Fifth Street but reconsidered when they heard about The Rule of 17.  A few years ago, even the much loved staple Amar India expressed interest in moving to the district, but not if it had to fight for a liquor license.

If you have any interest in the Oregon District growing in a positive way, show up. Lend Jeff and Leslie (and all the other aspiring restaurants) moral support by attending tonight’s Oregon Historic District Society’s board of trustees meeting, open to the public!

Tuesday August 10 at 7:00 p.m.

The Oregon District Board of Trustees holds regular meetings on the second Tuesday of every month. The meetings are open to the public (you do not need to be a resident of the Oregon District), and are held at the Park Manor Community Room (1st floor of the high rise near the corner of Cass St. and Jackson St.)