Worthington leaders are researching and considering the option of establishing an outdoor area downtown where people could walk around with open containers of alcoholic beverages during specified periods of time.

The process began in March, when the city received a letter from the Old Worthington Partnership that officially requested the creation of a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in downtown Worthington.

As of April 30, the Ohio Revised Code allows for cities of 35,000 or fewer residents to create the area, known as a DORA. 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.

Within the DORA's perimeter, people could carry open containers that were purchased at establishments during authorized events.

In Worthington, the boundaries would be the right-of-way area and properties of participating businesses on High Street between South Street and North Street, along with an extended east-west area from 41 W. New England Ave. and 26 E. New England Ave.

City Council discussed the topic April 10, triggering a specific time line of events. City Council must make a decision -- via resolution or ordinance -- 30 to 60 days from that meeting.

David McCorkle, Worthington's economic-development manager, said city officials expect to have a draft of the legislation ready for a City Council public hearing May 15.

The DORA is expected to be presented as a resolution rather than an ordinance so City Council members could approve it on its first reading if they deemed necessary, he said.

But before that, many details of the potential DORA would need to be nailed down.

Lee Brown, the city's planning and building director, said staff members from a variety of departments have "been doing our due diligence on our end," and law director Pamela Fox emphasized the need for specificity.

"At the same time as we create (the DORA), we would have to specify many aspects," she said.

The request from the Old Worthington Partnership specified that the hours of the DORA would "align with the liquor-permitted establishments' posted hours of business." They offered to purchase signage and plastic cups that would be used specifically within the DORA boundaries. No alcohol would be permitted from outside.

They also requested that the area of operation could be expanded during special events, such as the group's Picnic with the Partnership.

The letter, written on behalf of local businesses and signed by the partnership's executive director, Annina Parini, and board of directors president, Andrew Saneholtz, claims the DORA would establish downtown Worthington as "a forward-thinking and appealing community for residents and its visitors."

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 and the Whitney House.

The Pub Out Back was hoping to be involved, McCorkle said, but conversations with police and others yielded too many "challenges" because it faces private property.

Jaime Moore, who manages the popular Worthington Farmers Market, said although she didn't feel strongly about the DORA's effect on the market, she could see possible positives.

"It's just another one of those things you can put in a checklist to add to the vibrancy and the experience when people come to the market," she said.

Though details are few at this stage, city officials and council members already are specifying that they don't want or anticipate a potential DORA to become a rowdy or "sip-and-stroll" space.

"We don't want a Bourbon Street," Councilman David Norstrom said, with agreement from other council members.

The new DORA law already has been applied by one central Ohio city with a population less than 35,000.

A DORA was approved by Hilliard City Council in April and will begin operation in June.

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