Council discusses open drinking area

By Brandon Klein -

Delaware’s city manager started the conversation Monday about establishing an open drinking area in downtown.

Tom Homan and City Attorney Darren Shulman highlighted the process with City Council to create a designated outdoor refreshment area, or DORA. The process would require Homan to submit an application to council, which would have public hearings on the proposal. If council approves, it would be submitted to the state’s division of liquor control for final approval.

The application would need to include the DORA permit’s usage, a public safety and sanitation plan and the boundaries. Homan said he wanted to get direction from council before submitting an application.

“We’re starting the conversation with you to find out do you want it to be limited to special events, what are the areas,” he said.

The city became eligible to have a DORA after April 30. A 2015 state law now allows cities or townships with populations of fewer than 35,000 people as of the last census to establish one district of up to 150 acres with at least four qualified permit holders.

Delaware’s population was 34,753 people as of the 2010 census.

If approved, downtown patrons would be able to purchase beer or wine in a DORA-designated plastic container. They would be able to walk around the district and enter non-drinking establishments with the owner’s permission. Council and city staff would need to determine the costs to have the district. Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle said the plastic cups have to be recycled.

Council proposed the boundaries to be on Sandusky Street from Spring Street to Central Avenue and on William and Winter streets from Union to Franklin streets. City staff will develop a map for council to review in the future.

Council members appear to be in consensus to have the permit for special events. But some were on the fence or opposed to allowing “sip and stroll” measure outside of such events.

“We’re still a college town,” said Chris Jones. But the 1st Ward councilman said he was in favor of the permit for special events including First Fridays.

Councilman George Hellinger did not agree the permit should include the monthly event put on by Main Street Delaware because there are many families with children who attend.

“I just don’t think it’s a good mix,” he said.

Riggle said parents can get beer at amusement parks such as Disney World, Cedar Point and the zoo. She does not expect parents will get intoxicated in front of their children.

Hellinger brought up Jones’ point that Delaware is a college town.

“Young people get drunk they get stupid,” he said. “I don’t want my kids around that.”

Hellinger asked what problem will the DORA solve. Vice Mayor Kent Shafer said that misses the point.

“I think we’re trying to make our downtown historic district even better,” Shafer said.

Riggle said people often take up seats at downtown bars for the duration of First Friday.

“This would give people another option,” she said.

Some downtown business owners such as Genti Koci, the owner of Opa Tavern and Grill, supported the measure.

But Todd Daughenbaugh, owner of Fresh Start Cafe and Bakery, said council should proceed with caution.

“I think you’re going to change the downtown,” he said.

In other business, council:

• Approved $175,000 in expenses to fund the process to update the city’s comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 2004.

• Approved a resolution of no objection to the expansion of the Concord/Scioto New Community Authority.

• Approved to use a $5,000 grant from American Electric Power to design a replacement industrial park sign at Pittsburgh Drive Park and London Road.

By Brandon Klein

Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.

Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.