Hilliard's DORA could be larger than ever in 2021

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group
Patrons enjoy a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area event in 2018 outside Sports on Tap in Old Hilliard.

It might seem that warm weather is far away, but City Manager Michelle Crandall already is looking ahead to Hilliard’s policy this summer for the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area.

Entering its fifth season, Hilliard’s DORA boundaries are poised to be larger than ever, according to the recommendation Crandall presented to Hilliard City Council on Feb. 8.

The Ohio Revised Code allows for municipalities to create DORAs, establishing specific guidelines, times and boundaries in which the possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages are permitted in public rights of way outdoors. The Hilliard DORA was established in 2017.

City Council has yet to approve the boundaries and schedule dates for the DORA in 2021, but Crandall has asked for DORA hours to be extended over seven days for the first time and to expand its boundaries to include Yabo’s Tacos, Benito’s, the Makoy Center and a future development, the Junction by Westwood.

She could receive an answer at the March 8 council meeting.

The DORA includes Otie’s Tavern and 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., Legacy Smokehouse, 3987 Main St., and Crooked Can Brewing Co., 5354 Center St., at the Center Street Market.

Abner's Casual Dining, 4051 Main St., originally was in the DORA but opted out last year.

Hilliard City Manager Michelle Crandall wants to expand the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area boundaries in Old Hilliard for 2021.

“It’s critical to Old Hilliard” to expand the DORA, as a growing number of central Ohio cities are establishing DORAs for the first time or expanding their DORAs, Crandall told council members Feb. 8.

Last year, during the early days of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Hilliard expanded the DORA at the request of the administration to help bolster economic activity in Old Hilliard.

In tandem with the opening of the Center Street Market, anchored by the Crooked Can Brewing Co., the city expanded the DORA to include hours on four days – Wednesday through Saturday – and eventually added Sundays.

For the first time last year, the city also closed Center Street, between Main and Wayne streets, to vehicles and placed tables and chairs – repurposed from the city’s closed pools facilities because of the coronavirus – along the closed section of the street.

From 2017 to 2019, the DORA had been in effect only Thursdays or Saturdays in conjunction with live music events at Hilliard’s Station Park, 4021 Main St.

Crandall told council members Feb. 8 that the city recommended allowing DORA hours from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week from June through October, as well as resuming the closure of Center Street between Main and Wayne streets for the placement of tables and chairs.

The city would need to purchase tables and chairs this year because the pools are expected to operate this summer, Crandall said.

Council member Tom Baker said he was concerned about the use of taxpayer money to invest in something that arguably benefits private businesses, but Crandall replied that expanding the DORA in such a fashion "incentivizes" people to visit Old Hilliard.

"We should invest in Old Hilliard," Crandall said.

Crandall also offered a "plan B,” which was to return to offering DORA hours only on Thursdays in June, July and August with the city’s Celebration at the Station concerts at Hilliard’s Station Park.

Council President Pete Marsh asked whether anything “in between” has been considered and if a second DORA district could be established.

Crandall replied the city had considered maintaining last year's multi-day policy but that the city desires a single-day or all-day approach this year to avoid the confusion that occurred last year when patrons did not realize the DORA was not in effect Mondays and Tuesdays.

Enforcement was a challenge, Crandall said.

Robert Fry and Jon St. Julian, partners in the Center Street Market, spoke Feb. 8 in favor of the expansion of the DORA.

But several council members raised the same concerns made last year that the businesses in Old Hilliard benefited from the DORA at the expense of those outside it.

“Have we asked other businesses (outside the DORA) what they think of an expansion?” council member Cynthia Vermillion asked.

Marsh asked Crandall to recanvass those restaurants outside the proposed new boundaries of the DORA for their views of a seven-day-a-week DORA, to which Crandall agreed to do so and report back to council.

David Meadows, Hilliard's economic-development director, said the city found the single-day DORA events had a larger impact on siphoning away business from restaurants outside the DORA boundaries than when the DORA hours were expanded last year to multiple days.

Further discussion is expected Feb. 22, and a council resolution concerning Crandall's recommendation could be considered on March 8, said David Ball, director of communications for Hilliard.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo

Hilliard City Manager Michelle Crandall has proposed expanding the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area boundaries in Old Hilliard for 2021.