WARREN - A new Courthouse Square restaurant has received the first of 15 liquor licenses to be issued in the downtown revitalization district.
''We already are seeing an increase in sales and our hours,'' said Tom Ross, owner of The Lime Tree Sandwich Gallery, which opened in October. ''We are doing more entertainment. Our traffic flow has increased.''
Ross received the new liquor license in March and plans to use it primarily to sell specialty and craft beers.
Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith
Tom Ross, owner of The Lime Tree Sandwich Gallery on Courthouse Square in downtown Warren, pours one of several craft beers he sells at the restaurant. Ross has the first of 15 special liquor licenses approved for the city’s revitalization district. To have approval, businesses must sell 75 percent food and 25 percent alcohol.
''We only want to sell the best kinds of beers,'' he said. ''We want this to be a place for people who would like to have a beer with dinner.''
With the license in hand, Ross said his restaurant, 187 W. Market St., will begin having music and different kinds of programming designed to bring people back into the downtown area after normal business hours.
''We will be having music available after the River Rock At the Amp concerts, so people will have a place to go in the downtown area after those shows,'' he said.
The restaurant will have a series of events over the next several weeks, including a trivia night from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday; a poetry night with Ron Book and SALT at 7 p.m. Wednesday; and its official grand opening Saturday in association with the David Grohl Alley Benefit.
Ross is hoping other businesses take advantage of the opportunity to get one of the 14 remaining liquor licensees.
''This will be great not only for The Lime Tree, but downtown as a whole,'' said Mayor Doug Franklin. ''We've received inquires from other businesses about the licenses.''
The Ohio House and Senate passed bills for the revitalization district last year. The legislation specifically targeted smaller communities with populations less than 50,000 residents. The liquor licenses are for businesses that have a food to alcohol ratio of at least 75 percent food service to 25 percent liquor sales.
Councilman Greg Bartholomew, D-4th ward, says he has seen an increase in the number of cars parked near The Lime Tree in the evenings.
''We've experienced a small success,'' he said.
Councilman James Valesky, D-at large, one of the original supporters of the entertainment district in the early 2000s, said this is a culmination of those discussions.
''I'm excited about this," said Valesky. ''I'm glad this has come to fruition and mom and pop restaurants can serve beer and wine with their dinners.''
Councilman John Brown, D-3rd Ward, is hoping the licenses will bring success downtown, similar to what happened when Youngstown opened its entertainment district. ''I'm hoping it will keep people downtown after work hours and give them something to do,'' said Brown. ''You go to Youngstown and its downtown is lively.''