City leaders are looking to give bars and restaurants in their downtown area the option of participating in a Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) similar to those in Middletown, Toledo and elsewhere, that let their customers drink outdoors within specific zones.
Ohio cities have created such areas with hopes of making their downtown areas more lively and as a way to attract tourists. The Stark County Convention & Visitors Bureau website phrases it like this: “Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area is officially here in Canton. Want to to stroll around Downtown Canton with a drink in hand? Well now you can!”
Generally in Ohio, people who walk around outdoors with open containers of alcohol can face $150 fines. But DORA areas, which have specific rules about where the alcohol must be purchased and in what containers it can be held, allow people to hang out, drinks in hand, during specific days and times.
Hamilton is exploring the possibilities of such a district. The city will have a public-input meeting for owners of properties within the proposed DORA boundaries on Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.
A meeting for public comment will be held Jan. 25 at 6 p.m.
One of many current or future establishments that could take advantage of the DORA program is Richards Pizza on Main Street.
Desaray Robinson, a manager at Richards, said the program sounds like a good idea to her.
“If the police and everybody kept it in check, I think it would be fine,” Robinson said. “As long as it was kept in check, and nothing outrageous happened.”
Robinson said she likes the way the downtown area has been improving.
“It’s getting better, with them doing the upkeep and all the murals, and things like that,” Robinson said. “It’s starting to get better.”
In a letter to property owners, city Planning Director Liz Hayden wrote that to-go beverages bought from establishments would have to be served in designated plastic cups with the business’ names or logos so it is clear from where the beverages came. The purchasers would not be allowed to enter another alcohol-serving business or special event area or leave the DORA areas without first finishing and discarding their cup containing the beverage.
In other cities, “after implementing their DORAs, these cities have seen increased pedestrian traffic as well as a much more vibrant downtown atmosphere,” Hayden wrote.
Hamilton’s DORA area “would encompass most of the downtown area on both sides of the river as well as the redevelopment planned at the old Champion Paper Mill,” Hayden wrote. That is the site of the proposed Spooky Nook Sports at Champion Mill mega-indoor sports complex along North B Street and the Great Miami River, on which officials hope a groundbreaking will happen by this fall.
Hayden noted the city is looking to create a walker-friendly area that has plans for security and litter. Companies could opt out of the program, she said.
The Jan. 25 meeting will begin 6 p.m. in City Council Chambers, 345 High Street, where public feedback is sought.