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Ravenna business owners say entertainment district will help

By Diane Smith | Staff Writer Published: August 18, 2013 4:00 AM
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It's a familiar sight that Sam Cipriano wishes he didn't see so often.

"A lot of times, they'll come up to the door all excited," said Cipriano, owner of Guido's of Ravenna. "And then they'll see that we don't offer beer or wine, and they leave."

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Guido's once sold bottled beer to go at its previous location on Meridian Street, but hasn't been able to sell beer and wine to customers dining in at its current location on Main Street.

The beverages, Cipriano said, would increase average sales, and tend to go hand in hand with Italian food.

"We've had several customers say they love our restaurant but they'd like to have a glass of wine or a beer with their pizza," he said.

That could change if Ravenna establishes an entertainment district, something city officials say is needed to bring new businesses to the city.

Mayor Joseph Bica said the district is not designed to bring more bars to the city, but to meet the needs of restaurants like Guido's and Mimi's on East Main Street, which are both on the waiting list for liquor licenses.

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"When larger venues and eating establishments are asked to come to town, the first thing they ask is 'are there any available liquor licenses within your community,'" he said.

Ravenna, like many cities, is maxed out on the number of licenses. The Ohio Department of Liquor Control limits the number of permits based on a city's population. An entertainment district would allow for more licenses.

A recent change to state law would allow Ravenna to create such a district, based on the fact that it was incorporated before 1860, has a historic downtown district, has a population between 10,000 and 20,000 and is in the same county as a town with a district.

Larger cities, including Kent, have created entertainment districts based on size and the millions of dollars in investment in economic development.

Ravenna City Council expressed interest in holding a work session and inviting representatives from Kent and Green in Summit County to discuss how the districts have affected their communities.

Kerry Macomber, Ravenna's economic development director, said for every five acres in the entertainment district, the city would be entitled to an additional liquor license. But no matter how many acres the district is, restaurants and bars would still be barred from residential neighborhoods by zoning, even if those neighborhoods are part of the district.

She said the entertainment district would help promote development in a "walk-able community."

"I think Ravenna is laid out for that type of thing," she said. "We have a beautiful green in the center of town. If there were more entertainment-type establishments, I think that would make the other uses stronger."

To get more businesses that don't sell alcohol downtown, Ravenna needs more foot traffic, something restaurants can help generate.

"One of the surefire ways to get people to come downtown is to feed them" she said.

Wayne Wiethe, director of planning in Green, said according to his city's population of 26,000, the city was entitled to just 13 liquor licenses. Having an entertainment district allowed up to 15 more businesses selling beer, wine or hard liquor.

"And when you put in a restaurant, you want to be full service," he said.

Green, which is 34 square miles in area, set its entertainment district over a relatively large area of about 900 acres. That, he said, was a "conservative approach" that ensured that businesses could spread out over the Massillon Road corridor.

"We didn't want them to be compacted into a 20 acre area," he said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1139 or dsmith@recordpub.com

Facebook: Diane Smith, Record-Courier

Twitter: @DianeSmith_RC

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redleg6 Aug 18, 2013 11:28 PM

@Thorgrin commented below;...Really. Who the heel is really calling the shots in this city??

Look at the building business signs by the torn down bus shelter.  Law offices of 3 Portage County Judges (former/present), and related attorneys, Ravenna City Council President is a Asst. County Prosecutor, just one store front down the block from the Judges  is another Law Office. My guess is pressure on the city officials from the Good Ole Boys/Girls Club of Portage County is calling the shots.

Did anyone get arrested for loitering? I could not fine a loitering ordinance (Ravenna or ORC) that has anything  to do with just sitting on a public city bench minding your own business.

Maybe it is unconstitutional to harass/arrest someone just for sitting on a public city bench (not a PARTA bench).  Because if these so called "UNDESIRABLES" were breaking a law, the police would have cited/arrested them. But they didn't. I think because they couldn't. What would be the  charge/crime? Being a CITIZEN, sitting, talking and minding your own business on a public bench? This is AMERICA !!!

The powers that be like the grants/money these folks are able to bring in for them, but they don't want them in their neighborhood, so they decided to label these folks, and run them out of the area.

I think a Civil Rights investigation is needed. Where is the NAACP and the ACLU when you need them?

yukkers Aug 18, 2013 10:32 PM

There is no hope for Ravenna.

thorgrin Aug 18, 2013 10:17 PM

If you guys want more business in your shops then stop pretending your so exclusive and be friendlier to the public. Extends your hours so people can shop at your stores after work. Most of you guys are really quick to call-it-a-day and skip out early. If you want more business you're going to have to put in the hours and earn it. Exceptions being the folks who already extend their hours later, like Guido's. You think selling more liquor downtown will revitalize shopping? After you took the benches at at the bus stops because you didn't like to see people using them. Really. Who the heel is really calling the shots in this city?? You guys confuse the heel out of me!

anonymous Aug 18, 2013 5:08 PM

I don’t think Ravenna could support an Entertainment District. I may be wrong, but if you have an entertainment district don’t you have to allow nude bars in? Don’t we have enough bars in Ravenna now?  A nice reasonable priced restaurant would be nice, but if you stick it in a district where there are bars and undesirables hanging around, no one will go there.  Unlike Kent, where the Student Body of KSU seeks out that kind of entertainment, the people in Ravenna do not. They are more family oriented.

A big problem is that the City will then tell the property owner that he is in an Entertainment District and that is the only use he can have on his property. That limits the value of his property.

thorgrin Aug 18, 2013 10:47 AM

Also, if you want more people downtown, don't make the bus stops uncomfortabe dear city! You took the benches and shelters from two downtown stops because you didn't want "undesireables" downtown. Now you want to sell more booze downtown to draw more people to visit. You can't have your cake and eat it too.