Delaware’s city manager has chosen not to submit an application to City Council to establish an area for people to walk around with open containers of alcoholic beverages.
At its last meeting, council scheduled a public hearing for July 24 to discuss creating a designated outdoor refreshment area, or DORA, in downtown. But the hearing was contingent upon the application’s submission by Friday.
“The city has decided not to submit an application at this time, without more feedback from businesses and stakeholders,” city spokesman Lee Yoakum said. “Council is happy to hear discussion on the topic at its next Council meeting July 24 but it won’t technically be a public hearing.”
After April 30, the city became eligible to have a designated outdoor refreshment area under a state law approved in 2015. Due to the city’s population being less than 35,000 as of the 2010 census, it can only have one DORA of up to 150 contiguous acres with at least four permit holders.
The law requires Delaware City Manager R. Thomas Homan to submit an application to council. Required information for the DORA permit includes its boundaries, signage, hours of operation, a sanitation plan, the number of personnel to ensure public safety, and a requirement to have the alcoholic beverages served in plastic containers.
When the application is submitted, council has a 45-day window in which to publish a public notice twice over a two-week period. Council would have to approve or deny the application within 60 days of the initial notice, but no earlier than 30 days. If approved, the city would notify the state’s division of liquor control and the investigative unit of the department of public safety notice.
In June, some council members appeared to support establishment of a DORA — at least for special events — to enhance the downtown, which is home to a variety of restaurants and bars.
But some members were on the fence or opposed to having the DORA on a regular basis because the city is a college town with Ohio Wesleyan University near downtown. And there was some concern about including Main Street Delaware’s First Friday events in the DORA permit because many families with young children attend the event.
Council has publicly received feedback from some business owners and residents. While some downtown business owners had expressed their support, 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.
Resident Deborah Guebert agreed. She said the establishment of a DORA would change not only the atmosphere, but also the character of the downtown area.
“The main reason to consider opening it up to further use in terms of alcohol is simply the profit motive and the merchants are hoping to make more money,” she told council at its last meeting.
Guebert said 1 out of 5 people in Ohio suffer from alcohol abuse with the statistics higher for men. She added that there were enough local Alcoholics Anonymous groups to show there’s a demand for the services and reports of alcohol-related issues often appear in The Gazette’s police blotter.
“A deeper concern for our neighbor includes not just trying to see their physical needs are met in certain ways, but also trying to construct our public policy in ways that will nudge them towards positive behaviour rather than negative behaviour and a public policy that is realistic about the dark side of human nature,” she said.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.