Westerville eyes Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area for Uptown

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group

Westerville residents and visitors soon might be able to enjoy an adult beverage as they check out the city’s historic district this summer – if a proposed Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area is approved.

Lynn Aventino, executive director of Uptown Westerville Inc., led the effort to work with merchants on the DORA that’s being considered by Westerville City Council, with a third reading set May 18. 

This map shows the boundaries for Westerville's proposed Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area. The area within the DORA boundaries is approximately 6.2 acres.

“We hope Uptown Westerville visitors can experience a DORA in Uptown starting this June, allowing the locals and tourists alike to enjoy an adult beverage from a participating Uptown establishment as they sip and stroll through the historic commercial district,” she said.

A DORA allows licensed liquor establishments inside a designated area to sell alcohol in marked cups to adults (age 21 or older), and adults then are permitted to take those cups outside the establishment, within the designated zone, during a certain time period.

Several cities in central Ohio have active DORAs, including Delaware, Dublin, Gahanna, Hilliard, Gahanna, Powell and Worthington.

In a March 25 letter to City Manager Monica Irelan, Aventino wrote that Uptown Westerville has long been the heart of the community.

History: Westerville was a "dry" town until a 2004 vote changed it. 

“It is home to locally owned businesses, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and a place we gather as a community,” she wrote. “Uptown Westerville Inc. continues to work to maintain the economic vitality and historic character of Uptown Westerville.

“In the wake of COVID-19 mandated shutdowns and restrictions, increased presence of experiential destinations in neighboring communities and competition from major online and big box retailers, now more than ever we need to support the economic health of our historic commercial business district.”

Rob Rishel, Westerville economic-development coordinator, said the goal of the DORA would be to increase the foot traffic for Uptown merchants, leading to increased sales. 

“We’ve seen other central Ohio communities including Worthington, Powell, Grove City and Hilliard, experience this sort of growth and increase in their DORA boundaries,” he said during an April 6 council meeting.

Rishel said council member Alex Heckman previously had asked about a quantitative increase. 

“No, but every one of those communities said it was good for their business community,” Rishel said.

The DORA hours would be from 5 to 10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays.

“While we are not the first central Ohio community to pass the DORA ordinance, we want those who visit Uptown Westerville to enjoy this same amenity in Westerville that they can enjoy in our neighboring cities, all while experiencing the unique charm and character of Uptown Westerville,” Aventino said.

Rishel said the initial 11 businesses that had expressed interest in participating in the DORA were Westerville Grill, Koble’ GrillTostadalicious, Good Vibes WineryJimmy V's Grill & PubBarrel & Boar, Asterisk Supper ClubOld Bag of Nails PubCardinal Pizza, Uptown Deli and Brew and Meza Wine Shop.

“That does not mean they must participate, and I imagine we'll add more, but those are the initial 11,” Rishel said. 

Aventino said Meza Wine Shop has changed its business model to a retail wine-seller only, so it won’t be participating. 

She said the boundary runs from the Westerville Grill on South State Street northward to East Home Street. It also runs slightly east and west down College Ave and Main Street.

"The area around Hanby Elementary School is not included in the DORA, and people must deposit their cups in an appropriate trash receptacle or recycle bin prior to walking to the parking lots and vehicles," Aventino said.

The area within the DORA boundaries is approximately 6.2 acres, according to the application.

Mayor Kathy Cocuzzi said she had done some informal research in Delaware when she was shopping there. 

“I asked a lot of the store owners if they thought it was a great addition to their community,” she said. “I wasn’t there during a DORA time. They had great signage. There was a lot of positive feedback from people.” 

Rishel said the goal is to have the DORA effective in early to mid-June. 

More about DORAs can be found on Westerville’s website.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla