Although many opportunities for recreation this summer – including access to pools, fairs and fireworks – continue to decrease because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, at least one will expand: Hilliard’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area.
“Old Hilliard’s restaurants and other businesses are an important economic driver for our community,” City Manager Michelle Crandall said. “Extending the boundaries and hours of the DORA is a logical extension of the partnership the city has with Old Hilliard businesses.
Established in 2017 in accordance with Ohio law, Hilliard’s DORA creates a public outdoor district in which people are permitted to possess open containers of alcohol during approved times.
Tim Kauffman, executive director of Destination Hilliard, the organization tasked with promoting the city, said the expanded boundaries and hours of the DORA “will allow for an enjoyable outdoor dining experience combined with the option of alcoholic consumption in a safe and socially distanced environment.”
It also will provide the district’s restaurants expanded capacity beyond indoor dining rooms that presently are subject to limited capacity because of the pandemic, Kauffman said.
Libby Gierach, president and CEO of the Hilliard Area Chamber of Commerce, said she also sees benefits to the expansion.
“We look forward to seeing the DORA coming to Old Hilliard to help our businesses bring in additional patrons to enjoy being outside,” she said. “We hope that the community members will be socially responsible and adhere to the guidelines that the Ohio Department of Health has established.”
At the end of last year, Hilliard’s DORA included seven venues: Abner’s Casual Dining, 4051 Main St.; Otie’s Tavern & Grill, 5344 Center St.; Sports on Tap, 4030 Main St.; the Old Bag of Nails Pub, 4065 Main St.; Local Cantina, 3975 Main St.; Starliner Diner, 4121 Main St.; and Legacy Smokehouse, 3987 Main St.
Last year, the DORA events coincided with “Celebration at the Station,” a series of 10 Thursday-night concerts at Hilliard’s Station Park, 4021 Main St.
But because of the pandemic, all events at Hilliard’s Station Park are canceled through at least June 30.
However, Crandall said, the city still wants to hold DORA hours without special events at Hilliard’s Station Park.
Hilliard City Council on May 26 unanimously approved the expansion of the DORA.
Council’s decision “reflects support of this opportunity to encourage people to come to Old Hilliard for dining and maybe a few drinks while still respecting the state’s social-distancing requirements,” Crandall said.
From Wednesday, June 3, to Aug. 15, the DORA will be in effect from 4 to 9 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays.
If the expansion is deemed successful, Crandall said, the city might consider offering additional times throughout the week.
The boundaries of the DORA also have expanded, most notably to include both sides of Center Street, from Wayne Street north toward the entrance of the Heritage Rail Trail, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.
During the DORA hours, outdoor dining tables will be set up, including along the one-way section of Center Street between Main and Wayne streets and at Hilliard’s Station Park, Ball said.
The DORA boundaries also include the south side of Main Street from a point just west of Madison Street and east beyond North Street.
The boundaries will be marked by signs, per state law.
Last year, only a section of the south side of Main Street between Center and Norwich streets was included in the DORA.
“By providing the DORA and additional seating throughout the area, the public will be able to enjoy Old Hilliard and our local businesses will benefit from additional patrons,” Crandall said.
During scheduled DORA times, the city will have two staff members on hand, but that could change based on attendance, Crandall said.
The staff members will be responsible for trash receptacles in the public right of way, the sanitation of tables and overseeing social distancing, working “hand-in-hand with the Hilliard Division of Police and local businesses to enforce (it), if necessary,” she said.
The city will utilize tables from its two pool facilities – which are closed for the season – to help reduce costs, and additional tables might be purchased for $690 to $1,120 each, Crandall said.
The city also will purchase four planters at $4,000 each to serve as roadblocks for the closed section of Center Street, Crandall said.
In the past, temporary sidewalk signs designated the boundaries of the DORA but “permanent signage will need to be installed and can be done in-house at a minimum cost,” Crandall said.
Ball said the “permanent” signs would be removed after the DORA season ends, and the city would reassess the boundaries for 2021.
To provide additional parking, the city entered into a lease for $25 for the season, from May 26 to Aug. 19, for a lot on Norwich Street behind the Old Bag of Nails. The lot will be used during the times and dates the DORA is in effect.
Mel Sims, who owns the undeveloped lot in addition to other property in Old Hilliard, said city leaders asked him about use of the lot and he was pleased to help, adding that the lease for the nominal amount was necessary only to formalize the arrangement and protect both parties.
For now, food trucks are not part of the plan for the expanded DORA times “but will be part of our evaluation moving forward,” Ball said.