Imagine buying a beer at a business in historic downtown Canal Winchester, then taking it with you to enjoy at the Labor Day Festival, Blues & Ribfest or other events.
Canal Winchester City Council is discussing the idea of creating a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA), which are seen by many as economic-development drivers used to attract shoppers or diners.
Ohio lawmakers first approved DORAs in 2015, and since then, they've been created by municipalities in nearly 20 counties, including Delaware, Grove City, Hilliard, Lancaster, Marys-ville, Powell and Worthington in central Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce.
"I think it would be a great fit for our downtown area," said Councilman Pat Lynch, who initiated the discussion at council's May 18 work session. "Since the laws have changed, I thought, 'Hey, let's bring this to Canal Winchester.' I've talked to business owners, and they love the idea."
Initially, only municipalities with a population of more than 35,000 were permitted to establish a DORA. However, that changed in 2017, with cities of 35,000 or fewer residents being allowed to create one DORA.
Canal Winchester's population was about 8,600 in 2018, according to U.S. Census Bureau Estimates.
Lucas Haire, the city's development director, told council members the DORA can be up to 150 adjoining acres in size and must include at least four establishments permitted to sell alcohol.
"We would easily meet both of those requirements and encompass most of the Old Town areas that are commercial areas there," he said.
Municipalities are required to put together a plan that outlines the DORA's hours of operation. Posted signs would be required to designate the DORA boundaries.
Also, patrons must drink from a DORA-designated cup, which Haire said has created issues in other communities.
"Some businesses were having trouble getting access to those cups or they were providing alcohol not in the designated cup, in maybe some other plastic cups they had," he said. "So that's the only drawback from communities that we've heard -- if you are doing a specific cup, then make sure you have a supplier that can supply the number that is needed."
Council Vice President Mike Coolman, who also is president of Destination: Canal Winchester, the not-for-profit organization that promotes the city's travel and tourism, said a DORA would align with ideas for future events.
For example, he described "Dining Under the Stars," which would involve putting tables along High Street and inviting restaurants to participate.
A DORA also could allow Blues & Ribfest patrons to take drinks from the beer tent or nearby restaurants to a designated drinking area in front of the main stage.
"(Shade on the Canal) is open during the Blues & Ribfest, Barrel and Boar is open, (Roman's Pizza) is open and Harvest Moon is open, so they are ready to co-mingle with us on this as well as Loose Rail," Coolman said. "So there are five, and that doesn't hurt us because the beer tent will still be the beer tent and that is where people gather and they like to see the entertainment on Waterloo Street or at Stradley Park."
Councilman Bob Clark said a DORA may even increase beer-tent sales.
"A lot of people come up and ask, 'I want to take this beer and go listen to the music,' and I said, 'You can't,' and they walk away and don't buy," Clark said.