With restaurants and bars in Ohio permitted to reopen for outside dining only beginning today and for inside dining starting May 21, the City of Delaware has taken a measure to aid its downtown businesses in jump-starting revenue streams.
On Wednesday, the city announced the expansion of its Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) for the downtown district. The DORA was first approved by Delaware City Council in 2017 with the stipulation it would only be permitted for special events. As of today, the DORA will be in place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Within the DORA, beer and wine purchased from participating restaurants and bars can legally be consumed in the zone; no liquor is permitted. The boundaries of the DORA zone will remain as they were when the ordinance was originally passed. Those boundaries are Sandusky Street from Central Avenue to just north of Spring Street, and William and Winter streets from Franklin Street to Union Street.
In a memo to City Manager Tom Homan, highlighting the expanded DORA proposal, Economic Development Director Sean Hughes said, “For restaurants that serve alcohol and bars that serve food, alcohol sales can attribute upwards of 70% of revenue for that business. Therefore, allowing the DORA to temporarily expand, along with the temporary expansion of outdoor seating, will be a lifeline to our downtown restaurants and bars.”
Hughes added in the memo that city staff feels the expanded DORA guidelines will also help those businesses that don’t serve alcohol by further attracting people to downtown Delaware.
Homan said the expanded DORA is a “trial” that will need to be evaluated moving forward. The expansion will last through Aug. 31, and Homan expressed that “if it works, hopefully, we’ll be able to continue it.”
Councilwoman Lisa Keller said she has come to see during the pandemic that citizens are more than capable of handling themselves in a respectable and responsible manner, rendering some of the city’s regulations, such as a limited DORA, unnecessary.
“One of the things I’m noticing a lot during this COVID-19 is a lot of the regulations that we had in place that we are doing away with,” Keller said. “I’m noticing that after we do away with them, we’re finding that perhaps a lot of them we didn’t need in the first place. We’re finding that, perhaps, our citizens are a lot more responsible than we gave them credit for.”
Keller cited the permittance of takeout alcohol during quarantine as an example of a regulation that the citizens have shown to be unnecessary. She said, “A lot of people thought that perhaps the world would end if we allow people to take alcohol out with their takeout food, and our citizens are showing us that they can handle that just fine.”
Mayor Carolyn Riggle said Jackie Walker, who served as the assistant city manager at the time of the DORA creation and played a large role in getting the original approval, had always hoped the DORA would eventually be expanded, a sentiment Riggle said she shared.
In addition to the DORA expansion, the city is also allowing restaurants and bars to expand current sidewalk cafes by way of a no-cost temporary permit with permission from their neighboring business or building owners. A local task force is currently working with Main Street Delaware and the local health district on expanding outdoor seating in the downtown district as well.
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.