During Monday’s Delaware City Council meeting, several individuals with ties to downtown businesses and organizations spoke in favor of a resolution to create a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area within the downtown area.
Main Street Delaware Executive Director Susie Bibler told council during the public hearing that after much conversation, the organization is in support of the work the city has done to this point as it considers instituting a DORA.
MSD Board President Chip Gregory said his group conducted a survey of businesses in downtown Delaware that revealed “the majority of downtown businesses favored a DORA during certain special events.”
He said of the 44 businesses that responded to the survey, 56.8 percent were in favor of a DORA, while 22.7 percent were not. The remaining 20.5 percent were unsure or requested more information.
In speaking with other MSD board members, Gregory said there is the chance the nonprofit could utilize the DORA in the future if the city approves the measure.
“We are not sure how we’d use it, but we might like to,” he said.
Council also heard from several others in favor of it, including Tracey Peyton, managing director of the Strand Theatre, and Genti Koci, owner of Opa Grill and Tavern on South Sandusky Street.
Peyton said the downtown area has become a “beacon for foodies,” so pursuing something new like a DORA is the “logical next step as a city” and a way to help attract the younger, more tech-savvy class of entrepreneurs to Delaware.
“I believe the creation of this refreshment area will significantly enhance the downtown educational, cultural, economic, and entertainment quality to the benefit of our residents and visitors,” she said.
Koci called the proposal “vital for our downtown.”
“We have a great downtown right now, but I can’t promise you we are going to have a great downtown tomorrow,” he said.
Like Peyton, Koci believes a DORA would help attract the younger crowd to downtown while also giving restaurants the opportunity to sell alcohol to patrons waiting to be seated during planned special events that attract large crowds.
It’s the large event crowds, however, that has city resident Larry Vance opposed to the DORA.
As someone who does a lot of masonry work on downtown buildings, Vance said the one question he hears most is, “Where are the public restrooms?”
He said the public already attends downtown events in great numbers, so establishing a DORA would only “compound” the need for public restrooms.
If the city were to address the need for more public restrooms, Vance added, he would be more inclined to support the proposed measure.
Following the second reading of the proposed DORA resolution, council member Chris Jones said there continues to be misleading information being shared throughout the community as to the “true nature of what a DORA is.”
“I’m amazed at the misinformation that has been put out in this community,” he said. “People think (the DORA) is Monday through Friday from noon to midnight all over the city.”
City Manager R. Thomas Homan reiterated the intent of the DORA was never to make it a daily, weekly, or monthly thing.
Instead, it would be made available to special event organizers who apply for a DORA through an process that would be reviewed by the city’s Special Events Committee.
“Right now, this is a very small step and it really gives us a chance to evaluate it from the standpoint of safety and from the standpoint of other issues people have raised,” Homan said.
He added, Greenswell, the host organization behind the New Moon Half & Quarter Marathon, is the only event organizer to date that has expressed interest in applying for a DORA if it was made available.
Assistant City Manager Jackie Walker said if council were to approve the creation of a DORA, it would encompass the following boundaries during approved special events only: Sandusky Street from Spring Street to Central Avenue and on William and Winter streets from Franklin and Union streets.
She said out of respect to Ohio Wesleyan University, the city is considering stopping the southern DORA boundary line just north of Spring Street.
According to city documents, there are 21 liquor permit holders in the proposed DORA district that could participate by selling beer or wine within their establishments in specially marked cups.
Walker said the plastic cups would be 16-ounce red ones that feature the logo of the establishment where the cup is sold, and each participating establishment would be responsible for purchasing their own cups.
“Participation in the DORA program is optional to all liquor permit holders,” she added. “If a liquor permit holder in our downtown area chooses not to participate in the DORA, they are not required to.”
Council member George Hellinger questioned where patrons could legally go within the DORA boundaries with one of the specially marked cups in hand.
Simply put, Police Chief Bruce Pijanowski said, “The DORA establishes the ability to have an open container in public.”
City Attorney Darren Shulman said an individual who purchases alcohol from one drinking establishment won’t be allowed to bring that establishment’s cup into another drinking establishment.
However, Economic Development Director Sean Hughes said patrons in possession of one of the specially marked cups could carry it into retail establishments within the DORA boundaries as long as the particular business doesn’t have a sign posted prohibiting alcohol from being brought inside.
Council could elect to vote on the proposed measure at its Oct. 23 meeting.