Powell's first DORA event wasn't supposed to be like this.

When Powell City Council approved the creation of a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area last fall, the measure was seen as a means to enhance events held in the city, including its signature Powell Festival.

Instead, this weekend's DORA hours, scheduled from noon to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 27 and 28, is a substitute for the Powell Fest, postponed in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

By enacting the DORA for the weekend, the city hopes both to offer residents a bit of the positive experience lost to the festival's postponement, and to provide a boost to local businesses struggling in the wake of pandemic-related restrictions.

"We wanted to offer something the traditional weekend of Powell Festival," city spokeswoman Megan Canavan said. "For the business community, the past three months have been very hard. With the DORA, individuals can physically distance while still enjoying and exploring downtown."

During a DORA time or event, specified holders of liquor licenses may fill specially marked cups that patrons may take out of the establishments and among the locations along streets and in other public spaces within the designated area.

Ohio municipalities have been allowed to create DORAs since 2015, and many central Ohio suburbs, including Delaware, Worthington, Hilliard and Grove City, have taken advantage of them.

Canavan said most of the businesses eligible to be part of the DORA opted to participate in the weekend event. It will cover most of downtown Powell, with Ill Mannered Brewing Co. being the northernmost participant, Powell Village Winery at the south end and the Daily Growler to the west.

The event also is intended to attract additional patrons to the city's retail shops, most of which will be open throughout the weekend.

"It's our hope to engage with the community and to keep the traditional Powell Festival time in place," Canavan said.

Jessi Iams, owner of Local Roots, said she is "looking forward to trying (the DORA)" but admitted she still has some concerns about how it will look in practice.

Given limited dining-room occupancy -- Local Roots strongly encourages making reservations -- Iams was considering ways to allow for a potential rush of customers, and how to give them a positive, low-hassle experience.

"It's good that the city is trying something to help businesses," she said.

James Knott, who handles social media and marketing for Nocterra Brewing Co., said the brewery's focus remains, as it has since reopening, on the safety of its customers.

"We appreciate that the city is looking out for local businesses," Knott said. "A lot of businesses in Powell have been hurting. This is a good way to bring in people to maybe try out a shop or restaurants they haven't tried before -- and if additional people come to Powell, we will still be focused on safety."

Knott said Nocterra has been diligent in how it laid out both its taproom and beer-garden seating in response to health guidelines, and expects to be able to handle any additional customers this weekend. Still, he said, the brewery plans to be "overprepared," with an additional outdoor pour station set up for the DORA.

Canavan said picnic tables will be set up in various locations around downtown to allow for small groups to sit and relax. Some businesses will have entertainment throughout the weekend, as well.

For more information, go to cityofpowell.us.

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