- Associated Press - Saturday, July 30, 2016

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Bar owners in Toledo are toasting the success of a quiet roll-out of the city’s first outdoor public-drinking area.

The entertainment district near downtown Toledo is allowed under a new state law that lets revelers legally carry open containers of alcohol.

The outdoor refreshment area in a neighborhood near downtown Toledo quietly started allowing outdoor drinking in early June.

Since, bar owners said it has been nothing but positive, The Blade (https://bit.ly/2a26TNE ) reported.

During the first weekend, people stopped and talked to one another, lingering on sidewalks, said Zach Lahey, who owns Manhattan’s Pub & Cheer.

“It was like the ‘90s,” he said. “No one had their phone out. They were actually conversing.”

Ohio last year enacted the law intended to spur economic development by allowing municipalities to establish outdoor refreshment areas that are exempt from the state’s prohibition against consuming alcohol in public places. The districts allow people to buy drinks in bars and restaurants and stroll outside with them to enjoy entertainment and shopping or just relax in the open air.

The idea is to allow for entertainment districts similar to Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. But people aren’t allowed to bring in their own drinks.

Middletown, Cleveland and Canton are among the Ohio cities that have similar areas or have taken steps to create outdoor public-drinking districts.

The outdoor drinking area in Toledo is limited to certain hours. Revelers must carry around their drinks in special cups.

Lahey said there haven’t been any known problems since it began in June. He said police officers have been more visible and the bars have chipped in to pay for off-duty officers.

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