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Sip and stroll: Morgantown opens downtown PODA

MORGANTOWN — Sunshine beamed down on the Apothecary Ale House beer garden Wednesday afternoon as a crowd of 50 or so gathered to lift a glass and officially open Morgantown’s PODA. 

Meaning for the first time in a long, long time the drinks being sipped on the city’s downtown sidewalks were being sipped in full compliance with the law.   

Dubbed The Morgantown Mile, the PODA, or Private Designated Outdoor Area is a defined district in which participating businesses can sell beverages containing alcohol to customers who can carry those beverages in identifiable cups to other participating locations within the district.  

Morgantown’s PODA is comprised of the city’s downtown and Wharf districts between the hours of 4-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. 

Wednesday’s kick-off event was the culmination of nearly three years of work to not only get an outdoor recreation law passed in West Virginia but get Morgantown’s district ready for launch.  

That effort was largely shouldered by Morgantown City Councilor Danielle Trumble, Delegate John Williams and attorney Ryan Simonton. 

Morgantown may not have the first PODA — Charleston and Huntington jumped on board immediately — but nobody worked harder to get it.  

“This was the bill and the policy issue that had more than nine lives, honestly,” Williams said. 

“Because of all the work that went into it from so many stakeholders, this is one of the proudest days of my legislative career. When you guys walk around today and walk those sidewalks doing something you’ve never done … legally … drinking a beer on High Street, I want you to think about what government can to do make people’s lives better when we put our heads together instead of banging them together.” 

Trumble explained there are currently three businesses licensed to sell PODA beverages — Apothecary, Chestnut Beer Hall and Gibbie’s Pub & Eatery — but there are eight additional businesses in the licensing process. 

There’s a list of participating retail businesses ready and willing to sell their wares to patrons enjoying a beverage.

All participating businesses will sport the Morgantown PODA logo. 

“PODA is about much more than just alcohol. It’s a catalyst for change for the future of downtown,” Trumble said. “At its core, PODA is an economic development tool and it’s designed to support businesses of all shapes and sizes. By attracting visitors and residents alike to downtown Morgantown, we’re not only stimulating economic growth, but also fostering a sense of community.”  

Wednesday’s PODA kickoff coincided with the first Main Street Morgantown High Street Car Cruise-in of the season — one of dozens of events planned for the city center in the coming months. 

“The future of downtown Morgantown has never looked brighter,” Trumble said. “It’s going to be a great summer here in Morgantown.”