Every day would be a DORA day, according to proposal for Hilliard City Council

A. Kevin Corvo
ThisWeek group

Hilliard is poised to make its Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area a full-time affair this summer.

Hilliard City Council on Feb. 22 put its support behind the recommendation of City Manager Michelle Crandall to make Hilliard’s DORA, established in 2017, a seven-day-a-week event for the first time.

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.

Patrons enjoy a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area event in 2018 outside Sports on Tap in Old Hilliard. For now, because of ongoing problems at the establishment, city leaders have chosen not to include it as a DORA participant in 2021.

“It will add vibrancy to (Old Hilliard),” Crandall said.

Council member Tom Baker voted against the recommendation, and Kelly McGivern was not at the meeting.

Crandall said she would present legislation to City Council on March 8 to formally establish the expanded times and boundaries of the DORA.

As proposed, the hours would be from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day of the week from June through October.

With it will come an expected a policy to provide a revenue stream to restaurants outside of the DORA boundaries.

How those funds will be collected and how they would be allocated and used is yet to be finalized, Crandall said.

Crandall first asked City Council for the expanded DORA on Feb. 8.

The Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area boundaries in Old Hilliard have been expanded for 2021.

Council members asked Crandall to do some homework, including a survey of restaurants and residents concerning an expanded DORA, and then present her findings.

City staff canvassed 32 restaurants and received 31 responses, of which 12 reported the city’s DORA events had no impact on business and 12 reported that it benefited business.

Seven businesses outside the DORA boundaries, including several outside the city limits of Hilliard, told city staff members it had an adverse effect, including one owner who likened a seven-day DORA to a “second pandemic,” Crandall said.

Crandall suggested the city establish a policy to create a revenue stream for affected businesses. Those included requiring Destination Hilliard, which serves as the city’s visitors-and-convention bureau, to perform dine-in promotions or establishing a 5 to 10 cent upcharge on sales of the plastic beverage cups required for use during DORA events and making that revenue available as a kind of grant for qualifying businesses.

Seeking CARES Act funds is another option, Crandall said.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is a $2.2 trillion stimulus package enacted by the federal government in March 2020 to address the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“They did have some concern,” Crandall said about the business owners opposed to an expanded DORA.

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.

But last year, in the throes of the pandemic, the city expanded the DORA to four days, Wednesdays through Saturdays, and then added Sundays.

Also for the first time last year, the city closed Center Street between Main and Wayne streets to vehicles and placed tables and chairs – repurposed from the closed pools facilities because of the coronavirus – in the street.

In addition to expanding the DORA to seven days, new locations will also be added, as proposed by the administration.

The expanded DORA boundaries would include Yabo’s Tacos, Benito’s, the Makoy Center and the new HillGarten and Junction by Westwood.

The DORA currently includes Otie’s Tavern and Grill, Sports on Tap, the Old Bag of Nails Pub, Local Cantina, Starliner Diner, Legacy Smokehouse and Crooked Can Brewing Co. at the Center Street Market.

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

In addition, Hilliard officials have requested a hearing before the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control concerning the renewal of a liquor license used by Sports on Tap. City officials have said they are concerned about the frequency of Hilliard Division of Police calls to the establishment.

The expanded DORA is meant to make Old Hilliard “a destination,” economic-development director David Meadows said.

Crandall, the former assistant city manager of Dublin, said Hilliard is competition with such destination cities, including Dublin, which is in the process of establishing the city’s first DORA.

Council member Cynthia Vermillion said she although she supports the expansion of the DORA, she wants the city to expand programs in Old Hilliard, too.

Council member Omar Tarazi agreed.

“We need to add people, not shift people,” said Tarazi, adding that a full downtown would lead to people spilling into businesses outside the DORA.

Council President Pete Marsh rephrased the same concept.

“We want to grow the pie for the whole city, not just slice it differently. ... Some people will have a bigger slice (than others), but hopefully no one has a smaller piece,” Marsh said.

Council member Andy Teater said the continuing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic also should be considered.

“It’s a tough issue," Teater said. "We don’t have all the answers on the impact (of an expanded DORA) on other businesses because of COVID. ... But (Old Hilliard) had unlimited potential.”

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo