Gahanna council to consider vote on Creekside DORA proposal Aug. 17

MARLA K. KUHLMAN
mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com
Nostalgia Brewing (far left) has expressed interest in participating in the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area proposed in the city of Gahanna's Creekside District.

People visiting Gahanna’s Creekside District could stroll the area with an alcoholic beverage in hand from one of six establishments that holds a liquor permit if Gahanna City Council approves a proposed Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area.

A public hearing on the proposal was held Aug. 3 during a virtual city council meeting, with business owners and residents voicing opinions.

The issue has moved forward for a council vote Monday, Aug. 17, and if it is approved, it would be adopted immediately upon signing, said Carrin Wester, city communications manager.

The boundaries of Gahanna’s DORA, labeled the Creekside Outdoor Refreshment Area, are proposed as Big Walnut Creek to the west, High Street to the east, Granville Street to the south and North Street to the north.

Hours of the DORA would be 3 to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Six qualified permit holders that have expressed interest in participating include Barrel & Boar, Local Cantina, Signatures Mill Stone Tavern, Old Bag of Nails Pub/Pour House, Nostalgia Brewing and Stadium Bar & Grill.

A formal application to establish the DORA was filed with the council office by Gahanna Mayor Laurie Jadwin, in partnership with the Creekside District Alliance, on June 24.

Jadwin said the extent of her hearing any negative feedback were concerns that at 11 p.m. “there would be a bunch of drinkers in the area.”

“At the end of the day, we have to get away from the (misconception) that once the DORA is implemented, that all of the sudden it’s going to become Hineygate (a former Ohio State University tailgate along West Lane Avenue) at Creekside,” she said. “That’s simply just not the case. A DORA really is one tool in the tool-kit for adding an amenity to an area that has been promoted and was built as an entertainment district and supposed to be the heart of a downtown suburban area for people to gather.”

Jadwin said to have a DORA would be one more amenity the city could use to attract residents and more businesses to the area and support the businesses that are there.

Creating plans

Lew Griffin, Creekside District Alliance president, said there was a lot of work on the boundaries, and a committeeo spent a great deal of time on branding, matters of signs and trash containers and other details.

“There has been much input and thought put into this,” he said. “It’s important to note that a key component to this is knowing that through all these conversations, the one thing always mentioned is we want this entertainment area to be family friendly.”

Shawn White, owner of Nostalgia Brewing, said there are some DORA districts that have kept businesses alive through the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“Some breweries haven’t had to lay off staff, haven’t had to seek out additional debt because the DORA provides them with additional revenue to keep the business moving,” he said.

White said there are still a lot of people concerned about going out to eat and going out to have a drink and that is understandable.

He said the DORA district would allow customers to feel more comfortable because they could walk around the park area that surrounds Creekside and not be sitting in a closed restaurant.

Brad Fisher, president of the Gahanna Area Chamber of Commerce and Creekside District Alliance vice president, said Creekside is really his “home away from home.”

“I’ve talked to a lot of people about this concept,” he said. “I get an overwhelming resounding ‘yes’ that this is something the Creekside District would do well with.”

Considering concerns

As a Creekside resident, LaJune Cohen said, on any given day there are a number of residents with strollers and small children touring the area, enjoying the water, the boats and all that Creekside offers.

“These are families,” she said in an email to council. “If you allow folks with drinks in hand wandering around the area, I don’t think this will go over so well with parents.”

Cohen said there are 90-plus units in Creekside, and many residents are senior citizens.

“We would be living in a bar setting all the time,” she said.

Cohen suggested expanding the outdoor seating for local businesses.

“In that way they can police their patrons in their area and we don’t have people on the streets with too much to drink,” she said.

Creekside resident Sandy Miller asked council to make Walnut Street the north border.

“We have put up with the skateboarders in the garage, on the plaza, on the walking paths, the swimmers in the fountains and the loud weekend drunks sitting under our windows after the bars close but, DORA seven days a week until 11 p.m. and later is too much,” Miller said.

Steve Winegardner, a Creekside resident, said he’s highly in favor of the DORA.

Gahanna resident June Inlow said she favors the proposal.

“With the COVID-19, I prefer being outside,” she said. “This will be another good reason to go to Creekside.”

Tracking complaints

Jeff Spence, Gahanna police chief, said his department was tasked with providing a safety plan as part of the DORA application.

He said Gahanna police contacted law-enforcement agencies in communities that have approved such areas including Hilliard, Grove City and Dayton.

“In all of our contacts, the DORAs generated few complaints with policing levels determined by events and a mix of private/public input,” Spence said.

He said the coronavirus has changed much in police-call volume and the environment that is policed.

“The closure of pools, lack of organized activities for our youth and now the switch to a virtual school year (at least to start) have all had an impact on the community,” Spence said. “We see many more people outdoors and we anticipate this to be the trend carrying into the fall.”

He said police would continue to monitor the Creekside area in balance with other neighborhoods.

Spence said the business owners would be active partners in the DORA as will the city.

“Regardless of the outcome or decided boundaries, we will continue our efforts to address your (residents’) concerns,” he said.

If the DORA is approved, Jadwin said, it would be approached in a thoughtful and strategic manner.

If council votes in favor of the proposal, the division of liquor control would receive legislation and enter the permit holders’ information into a database, Wester said.

After that, Wester said, the Creekside District Alliance would check with the business owners who hold the permits to make sure they have everything in order and an effective date would be chosen.

She said that date could be around Labor Day weekend.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla