Worthington leaders are moving closer to the establishment of a downtown district where people could walk around with open containers of alcoholic beverages.
City officials have been working since March to finalize legislation for a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in downtown Worthington. The DORA would be in effect during authorized times or events, and alcohol would have to be purchased at one of the establishments within its boundaries.
Worthington City Council conducted a public hearing on the DORA on May 15. A revised resolution is expected to be considered June 5.
City officials will add changes directed by City Council, including a required "status update" after a year to determine whether to continue the DORA. City Council has the ability to amend, expand, cancel or otherwise change the DORA at any time but chose the yearly update to have a set time for assessment, according to David McCorkle, the city's economic-development manager.
The current draft of the plan would place the DORA in the right of way and on properties of participating businesses on High Street between Village Green Drive South and South Street and east to west from 26 E. New England Ave. to 41 W. New England Ave.
The DORA would be in effect from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Special events would operate under specific rules and permits and could include weekly gatherings, such as the Worthington Farmers Market, or larger one-day events, such as the Old Worthington Partnership's Picnic with the Partnership.
Signs would be placed along the boundaries of the permitted area to remind people not to leave it while possessing open containers of alcohol.
According to Worthington Division of Police Chief Jerry Strait, local authorities still are "trying to wrap our hands around" the DORA rules and regulations.
He said it's a challenge to adapt to any new legislation like a DORA, but he prefers to make education a priority rather than rushing into writing tickets for people who aren't sure how the DORA's limits work.
"Since it's new, we just don't know what all it's going to throw at us yet," Strait said. "Hopefully, most people will follow the rules and we won't have to be engaged. Historically, when any new law takes effect -- unless it's a threatening situation where it's a serious violation -- we try to take the more educational approach and teach people, 'This is the boundary; this is the new law,' and how it's written."
The desire to keep the DORA more low-key than rowdy is a consistent theme among the city's leadership.
Strait said he hopes the area stays "neighborhood-like."
City Councilman David Norstrom voiced Worthington City Council's sentiments in April by emphasizing to city officials that "a Bourbon Street" is not wanted.
The DORA has the support of several vendors and downtown leaders.
The Old Worthington Partnership submitted the request in March to establish the DORA, and McCorkle, who also is a partnership board member, took the lead on its establishment.
To support the request, the partnership gathered signatures of support from 28 Old Worthington business owners.
Ohio law requires that a DORA include at least four holders of liquor permits as participants. McCorkle said the city has eight businesses with liquor permits committed to participate: Dewey's Pizza, Harold's American Grille, House Wine, La Chatelaine, Old Bag of Nails Pub, A Taste of Vietnam, the Whitney House and the Worthington Inn.
As of April 30, the Ohio Revised Code allows cities of 35,000 or fewer residents to create DORAs. Cities in Ohio with a population greater than 35,000 were permitted to establish a DORA when the authorizing legislation became effective April 30, 2015.
Worthington's population was just over 13,500 after the 2010 census.