Hamilton Craft and Cocktail Quest continues to expand

Hamilton’s Urban Backyard is the latest bar and restaurant to join the Hamilton Craft and Cocktail Quest, and it wasn’t a hard sell for owner Dave Ernst.

The Sunday before Ernst was called about this nearly 18-month-old Hamilton Craft and Cocktail Quest, he was picking up donuts for his mom at Kelly’s Bakery on Main Street. Two minivans pulled into the lot and kids and their moms poured out, he said. They were on the Butler County Donut Trail, an invention of the Butler County Visitor’s Bureau, and there were two minivans full of people.

So when he got the call about participating, he said, “I asked if this quest is similar to the Donut Trail, and they said, ‘Yes.’”

He was sold and said, “‘Sure, sign me up.’”

The Hamilton Craft and Cocktail Quest is a program jointly operated by the Butler County Visitors Bureau and the city of Hamilton. It was born out of the pandemic as a way to help its businesses, said Jacob Stone-Welch, a city spokesman.

“I personally believe the program has been a big value add for our (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) district,” he said. “Whenever we were looking for different initiatives and way we could support local businesses and still do so in a responsible manner, the DORA, as you already know, became a de facto way for people to still get out and still have a good time outdoors.”

Hamilton’s DORA was just expanded last year to nearly 300 acres, which has been designed as an incentive layer for the town, as well as it gives people the ability to get a drink and go for a walk, Stone-Welch said.

“One of the cool parts about this to me is that it adds another layer of entertainment value to what you can do with the quest. It promotes our businesses, it entices people to come in for specials,” he said.

People save the web-based app from the Butler County Visitor’s Bureau website, gettothebc.com. They can download the app to a smartphone directly from the website.

BCVB President and CEO Mark Hecquet said the city was concerned about its restaurant community when the pandemic hit. City leaders reached out to the BCVB, who had experience helping the county’s local bakery and donut industry with the popular Butler County Donut Trail.

“We’re always looking for these new ideas and try and take the great assets our county has and package them in a way that’s attractive and desirable for potential businesses, and residents for that matter,” Hecquet said.

There are 17 Hamilton businesses that are participating, and Tracy Kocher, BCVB vice president of Marketing and Communications, said they’re working to add more.

“The city of Hamilton has reinvested to re-promote it again,” she said. “Clearly, it was making an impact on the local businesses and we’ve had hundreds of people sign up for passes and redeem them by either checking in at a restaurant or getting one of the secret menu items or discount. There are real people walking into real businesses.”

Through the start of February, 1,365 people have signed up for Hamilton Craft and Cocktail Quest passes via the web-based application and more than 2,800 redemptions at local businesses ― either by a check-in or redeeming an app-based deal).

After 10 check-ins and/or redemptions, the participant is deemed a “top finisher” of the quest and will receive a hefty medal that doubles as a bottle opener. Kocher said they went with a medal “because it’s fun and cool.”

And Ernst said the Hamilton Craft and Cocktail Quest helps the local bar and restaurant scene in the city citing the proverb “a rising tide lifts all boats.”

“Part of the impetus of us doing or creating Hamilton’s Urban Backyard is to be a community gathering space,” he said. “It’s everybody trying to support one another. It is a community, we’re all looking out for one another.”

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