Best Of 2023

This was worthy of an eggplant emoji. U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers seized huge, illegal loads of pills used to treat erectile dysfunction that were coming through the Port of Cincinnati in January. Feds sucked up more than 32,500 Viagra, Cialis and Levitra pills along with 1,050 packets of jellies containing "miracle honey," which features Viagra's active ingredient of sildenafil. The illegal packages originated in China, India, Malaysia and Sudan, and the criminals faced stiff penalties.
If you’re driving toward Downtown from the West Side — perhaps coming down from Price Hill and continuing on the Sixth Street Viaduct — or if you’re simply passing by the city core on I-75, you’ve surely seen the illuminated panels spelling out C-I-N-C-I-N-N-A-T-I on the west façade of the Duke Energy Convention Center. A clever overlay of color has made the message all the more meaningful, showing support with yellow and blue lighting for Ukraine and changing over to red and blue following Buffalo Bills player Damar Hamlin’s terrifying collapse during a January NFL game against the Bengals. The convention center’s letters and colors underscored our big-hearted city for all to see.
Alms Park, located near Columbia Tusculum, has plenty of ground to wander and includes a view of the Ohio River, a lifelike statue of composer Stephen Foster and a large playground and picnic area for families — all anchored by an old Italian Renaissance-style stone pavilion. However, the best part might be the large scenic hillside with a bird’s-eye view overlooking historic Lunken Field, home to the Cincinnati Municipal Airport where the Beatles, Charles Lindbergh and other historic figures once landed when they flew into the city. Visitors can sit on the long bench built into the length of the hillside or picnic-style on the grass to watch planes take off and land with birds floating at what seems like eye level.
As one of the world’s biggest public health crises, COVID-19 has both killed millions of people since early 2020 and exposed government shortcomings when dealing with major medical emergencies. In the United States, the Biden administration pushed through a program in partnership with the U.S. Postal Service that would deliver free COVID-19 home test kits upon request to residents — something that especially has helped vulnerable populations like low-income families, people without private health insurance and people without adequate transportation to get to local testing centers. The program had been renewed and paused repeatedly throughout 2022, depending on funding from Congress. But in December, the White House shifted budget items around to fund one final round of tests. It’s been a huge success, with USPS delivering a total of more than 737 million tests as of February 2023, enabling more people to discern if they’re infectious or should gather in public. But as with nearly all pandemic-related government initiatives, the program is scheduled to expire in May, leaving people to fend for themselves once again.
Amazon Air Hub workers who are unionizing
Photo: Provided by Amazon Air Hub Union Organizers
Amazon Air Hub workers who are unionizing

It takes a lot of courage to unionize your workplace, especially when you work for a mega-corporation like Amazon. Many employees at the Amazon Air Hub in Hebron, Kentucky, launched an effort to unionize in November — the first air hub in the country to openly start union efforts. The employees are calling for a $30 hourly wage, more time off and representation at disciplinary meetings. Organizers pushed through a holiday season with no “peak” bonus pay while canvassing for public support on the weekends at Findlay Market. Amazon has told CityBeat that unions aren’t the best answer for its employees, but that’s not slowing them down in 2023.
The Callery pear tree has beautiful white flowers, but it also harbors compounds that are derivatives of ammonia, which produces the familiar scent of, well, semen. And if your block has dozens of these things, you know that the air smells like a never-ending orgy. Aside from causing the post-coital aroma that blankets the city every spring, the non-native species creates other problems, like crowding out useful trees and damaging local ecosystems. There’s good news, though: In January, Ohio began outlawing the buying, selling and planting of these awful things, becoming the first state to do so.
We all know it, but do we take the time to appreciate it? We’re talking about the Saxony apartment building at the corner of Ninth and Race streets in Downtown. The head-turning color palette is a gift to strolling pedestrians, especially in the fall. Against the sangria-colored brick are pops of tangerine, olive, lavender, mustard and hot pink. The deep, vibrant base makes it perfect for autumn pictures along the falling leaves of Ninth Street. Grab a coffee from nearby BlaCk Coffee Lounge for a stroll so serene you might just forget to take that photo.
As if Nation Kitchen & Bar needed any help getting us to slam burgers and bloody marys, the architecture of Nation’s Westwood location is a destination in its own right. Solid cement bricks shine from floor to soaring ceiling in this historic firehouse-turned-restaurant. Built in 1907, Engine Co. #33 was built with limestone trim and a stunning arched window on the second floor. Looking at the beautifully preserved building is nice, but drinking a beer inside with a side of tots could very well be how this building was meant to be enjoyed.
In late 2022, Rep. Jennifer Gross from West Chester, who previously had a lot of weird takes on COVID-19 and magnets, shifted her focus to casting “witchcraft” out of the Ohio Statehouse. During a December chamber session, Gross introduced Curtis Hill, an associate pastor at LifeChurch, who proceeded to rally House members against the "dark forces." He then shared a long list of things he wanted to cast out, including "witchcraft" and "perversion."
What do you need for a date night? Pretty lights? Good drinks? Yummy food? Quality entertainment? Literally all of that can be found in the business district of College Hill. Grab low-key, ethnic grub at MashRoots or Tortilleria Garcia, or get a little more highbrow at Kiki College Hill, Marty's Hops and Vines or Bacalls Cafe. Or try Smoky Moth, recently opened by the owners of Sleepy Bee as their first try at a dinner-focused restaurant. For drinks, head to Brink Brewing Company (they offer trivia on Tuesdays), or check out the new hot spot Big Chill, a family-friendly bar that will have a walk-up soft-serve window come summer. Whatever you want from an evening stroll with your partner, you can find it in College Hill.
Cheviot: It’s “shiv-ee-it” like the makeshift prison weapon (shiv), not “shev-ee-ought” like Chevrolet. It’s also definitely not “sheyv-wah.” Even if you’re from the east side, you’re not that fancy.
A demonstrator marches at a rally for LGBTQ+ people in Cincinnati.
Photo: Mary LeBus
A demonstrator marches at a rally for LGBTQ+ people in Cincinnati.

Under a now year-old administration and largely refreshed city council, Cincinnati took steps to become more affirming to its LGBTQ+ residents throughout 2022. The city raised the transgender pride flag at City Hall for the first time in Cincinnati's history in recognition of Transgender Day of Visibility, representing people who identify as women and men as well as those who do not have a defined gender, who are transitioning or who identify as intersex. Just a few weeks later, council member Reggie Harris began collaborating with other officials to update language in the municipal code to more directly provide comprehensive legal protections for gender expression and identity and to further protect all individuals from discrimination. “We have to do both symbolic gestures and policy gestures. That is the way we move forward,” Harris said last March. Other officials have backed him up, with the council repeatedly condemning state bills that restrict care or education for LGBTQ+ individuals. In December, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Equality Federation said Cincinnati was one of just six Ohio municipalities to receive a perfect score on the 2022 Municipal Equality Index as well as one of seven to earn an All-Star status.
The Academy Award statuette found at Be Concerned
Photo: provided by Andy Brunsman
The Academy Award statuette found at Be Concerned

The game was afoot after someone donated an authentic Oscar statuette to Be Concerned, a food pantry and thrift store in Covington. Thinking it simply was some kind of gift-store trinket, workers sat the Academy Award on a shelf at the shop until they investigated it a bit more. It turns out, the Oscar in question had been given to the cast and crew of the 1934 Best Picture winner, It Happened One Night, starring Clark Gable. How it ended up in the Cincinnati area is still unknown, but Be Concerned returned the statuette to Hollywood, where it’s now part of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ Clark Gable exhibit.
Though it’s a short stretch, a stroll around the quaint neighborhood of Licking Riverside is worth leaving the house. No matter the season, Garrard Street between Sixth and Seventh streets in Covington is a sight to behold. Trees tower the street, sprawling their long branches to meet high above like a natural, vaulted ceiling of wavy limbs. The houses are also a treat, some of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Rarely do you hear of a politician actively campaigning to reduce their power, but Cincinnati mayor Aftab Pureval again flexed on the city in his own unique way. In November, voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to Cincinnati’s charter amendment to remove the mayor’s pocket veto, which was a loophole that allowed the mayor to basically kill legislation without discussion. While shitty, the loophole had been used by mayors before, which is why Pureval introduced the effort to nix the pocket veto for all future mayors, himself included.
The taxi service GEST Carts, which has a franchise location in Cincinnati, offers free rides in decked-out, party-style golf carts within a 2-mile radius throughout the city — even across the river to Covington or Newport. You can call them up or use an app to get a ride in a stretch golf cart that feels more like a mini car or, more accurately, a mini party bus with colorful lights, music and kind drivers to cruise to your next destination. All for free!
Look, no one is happy that the Capitoline Wolf statue was stolen from Eden Park last summer, but you’ve got to hand it to the bandit — it was impressive. The thief not only had to cut through four solid bronze paws, but also move the impossibly heavy statue without drawing attention from park-goers or city employees. Cincinnati Parks said the statue was removed around 8 p.m. on June 16, meaning it was still light enough outside for any onlookers to see the heist. Even still, a $50,000 reward was not enough to track down the 90-year-old gift from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.
Brent Spence Bridge
Photo: FormulaOne, Wikimedia Commons
Brent Spence Bridge

A new Brent Spence Bridge finally is on the way. In early 2022, Governors Mike DeWine and Andy Beshear announced that they would apply jointly for funds to update the deteriorating, traffic-laden bridge that spans their respective states of Ohio and Kentucky. Since then, the $3.6 billion project has expanded to include a toll-free, double-decker companion bridge and improvements to nearby green spaces. The project is scheduled to break ground in 2023, with "substantial completion" happening by 2029. In January, President Joe Biden delivered an address in Covington to celebrate the $1.635 billion award that the federal government is providing for the project, signaling that yes, this is all really — finally — happening for the notorious corridor that’s the No. 2 bottleneck in the nation for freight trucks.
Cincinnati is great — really! — but sometimes you’ve just got to leave so you can miss home. Our trusty airport gave us a more direct way to fling ourselves across the Atlantic when CVG announced British Airways’ new service to London. Starting in June 2023, we’ll be able to avoid cumbersome layovers and head straight to tea time with the Spice Girls. Flights will run five times per week in the summer, so maybe we’ll have an influx of Brits who want to see the Queen City.
When Greg Landsman was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in the fall, he selected fellow Cincinnati City Council member Reggie Harris to appoint the person who would take his council seat. Always dutiful, Harris sifted through dozens of applicants and sought advice from other council members. There were plenty of great candidates, but one applicant bulged out without (understandably) being seriously considered. According to records from Harris’ office, someone who went by the name of "Big Johnny” had gone through the application steps, including answering questions about issues that were important to them. According to Big Johnny’s responses, they seemed to be pro-choice, pro-LGBTQ and pro-social-good. Big Johnny also professed to stand up for people of all types. “I've been discriminated against in the past because of my large testicles,” they wrote. Alas, Big Johnny’s application was dismissed as a joke, but perhaps we’ll hear from them again — they claimed that they would run for the U.S. presidency if they didn’t get the council job.