Delaware City Council expands DORA to seven days a week
Carrying a cup of beer along a downtown street used to attract the attention of police, until 2015's Ohio House Bill 47 legalized the practice with the establishment of Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas.
Cities could get DORA permits from the Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of Liquor Control to allow open carry of alcoholic beverages – in plastic containers and sold by participating liquor-permit holders – in specified areas during pre-approved community events.
Delaware created its downtown DORA in October 2017 only for special events.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic showed the DORA concept had benefits beyond drawing people to special events, assistant city manager Kyle Kridler told City Council on May 10, when council passed an ordinance expanding the program to 11 a.m. to midnight seven days a week.
When the pandemic widened in the spring of 2020, the city expanded DORA hours 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. each Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
"Almost all restaurants, bars, microbreweries and wineries have said that the DORA was instrumental, especially during this last year due to COVID-19 and the pandemic. ... The businesses that have participated – it opened up essentially their restaurant space to spill over in the streets," Kridler said.
"So whether folks were waiting for a table because of reduced capacity, they were able to grab a beverage and walk around with their friends and family while they wait on their reservation on a sunny day. Maybe just grab a couple of drinks, hang out in the downtown hopefully spend some money at our businesses.”
When the pandemic brought indoor restaurant dining to a standstill, Kridler said, people were more willing to be outdoors in the downtown.
Participating businesses, he said, reported the DORA increased their alcohol sales about 30 percent during the pandemic. For a typical restaurant, Kridler said, alcohol sales represent about 60 percent of revenue.
Since its inception in 2017, the downtown DORA has been well-received and police have reported no issues related to the practice, Kridler said.
He characterized the DORA as a sip-and-stroll family atmosphere, with no resemblance to a Bourbon Street spring-break party.
"This program has been just a savior to our business," said Abby Cottongim, the beverage and events director at 1808 American Bistro, 29 E. Winter St,. and Speck Italian Eatery, 15 E. Winter St.
"We have a small space at Speck. A lot of people were able to come in, grab a drink and then walk down the street and go to other businesses and support those as well. I just think it’s created a great community environment for our downtown,” Cottongim said.
The expanded DORA program, Kridler said, will offer beer, wine, mixed drinks and spiritous liquor. The original DORA was limited to beer and wine.
The original DORA area was William and Winter streets between Franklin and Union streets, and Sandusky Street from Central Avenue to just north of Spring Street.
The expanded DORA will cover the same area, with the potential for including Spring Street later, after new development occurs there, Kridler said. Ohio Wesleyan University has been contacted and has no objection to the plan, he said.
Also during the meeting, council passed ordinances approving the "Delaware Together" comprehensive plan and a 2020-2040 thoroughfare plan. Both will be amendments to the city's zoning code.
Work on the comprehensive plan began in 2018 when the city started to solicit residents as volunteers to serve on a comprehensive-plan steering committee. At the time, it was estimated the project would take a year to complete. Such factors as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic delayed completion.
The current plan was adopted in 2004. When work began on the new plan, city officials said it would be used to frame and influence decisions on recurring issues, rather than setting a specific timetable to complete objectives.
Growth is a motivating factor behind the latest plan, city planning director Dave Efland told council earlier.
The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission predicts significant growth in central Ohio through 2050, he said.
City director of engineering services Bill Ferrigno told council May 10 the thoroughfare plan is vital for ensuring neighborhood connectivity, connecting bicycle routes and the sidewalk system, ensuring multiple collector roads to distribute traffic, and enhancing police and fire department responses.