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Outdoor Music Hours Extended as Businesses Fear Competition in Cincinnati

Entertainment districts in Covington are acutely aware of increased competition in the region's urban core, particularly as Cincinnati's The Banks continues to grow, attracting more visitors and keeping more customers on the north bank of the Ohio River.

Restaurants and bars in the Roebling Point district, the area north of Fourth Street near the Suspension Bridge, are hoping that one way to up their game is to extend permissible hours for outdoor music.

"Roebling Point (business) owners approached the city concerned about competition from The Banks and felt it was something to help them attract customers," said assistant city manager and city solicitor Frank Warnock.

The city commission unanimously agreed to the extension Tuesday night allowing the businesses to have live music outside till 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and till midnight on Friday and Saturday.

The move was not opposed by a resident who spoke or by two representatives from Mainstrasse Village, another Covington entertainment district, though they each had concerns of their own.

"The ordinance is not clear in this amendment," said Everett Dameron, a resident and rental property owner in neighboring Licking Riverside. "There's a lot of difference between having a guitar player and an eight-piece band."

"I support businesses very much but I'm in business, too, and losing tenants would be money out of my pocket."

Marty Boyer, who spoke on behalf of the Mainstrasse Village Association asked that the permissible hours for outdoor music be equal to each area. "Businesses that I've spoken with want to make sure that the hours are extended to them as well," Boyer said.

That idea was supported by Chris Penn, owner of Cock & Bull, a restaurant/bar in Mainstrasse. "Our businesses are getting snuffed out by The Banks," said Penn, who added that sales have been down at his location for the past two years. Though he's still making money, Penn admits that a downward trend is not one he wants to keep up.

"I encourage you all to support Roebling Point but I would encourage you to extend it to us, too. Between the casino and The Banks, we have to get people back on this side of the river."

"I would prefer to be liberal to let you do that but let's try it over here first," Warnock said.

"They are different areas and residents are a little more engaged in Mainstrasse than (Roebling Point)," said city commissioner Chuck Eilerman. "But it certainly makes sense to be comparable."

After a discussion, the city commission and administration decided to allow the extension in Roebling Point, possibly for an undetermined trial period, and then re-visiting the possibility of extending hours in Mainstrasse Village down the road.

The outdoor music extension is only available to those businesses that have city-approved licenses for outdoor dining. Violations could result in revoked permission.

Mayor Sherry Carran said that any outdoor performances would still have to comply with city ordinances related to loud music. 

Josh Rhodes, general manager at Molly Malone's, a Roebling Point restaurant and bar, thanked the commission for the extension. "We want to be respectful of our neighbors and city, but we think this would be a competitive advantage with what's going on across the river," he said. 

Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Keystone Bar & Grill in Roebling Point/via the business's Facebook page