The city of Westerville, which lies within both Delaware and Franklin counties, is the latest municipality in central Ohio to have its own DORA.
“The City is partnering with Uptown Westerville, Inc. (UWI) to bring a DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) to the historic heart of the community,” the city said on Facebook. The DORA coincided with the return of Fourth Fridays to to the Uptown area on July 23.
The DORA boundaries run from North State Street to South State Street, crossing West Main Street, West College Avenue, Winter Street, to West Park Street. Eleven establishments are participating in the Uptown Westerville DORA, and it is optional depending on the business.
An exception to open container laws, the DORA is open Thursdays 5-10 p.m., Fridays 5-10 p.m. and Saturdays noon-10 p.m. Individuals are prohibited from bring their own alcohol into the DORA.
“DORA beverages are served in specially marked, single-use cups. Learn more from Uptown Westerville Inc.,” the city said. “Uptown merchants may choose to allow DORA beverages onto their premises. Look for the ‘DORA Welcome’ stickers or consult with the merchants to be sure beverages are allowed.
“Certain liquor establishments have opted in to serve DORA drinks,” the city continued. “They may participate at their own discretion.”
The State of Ohio approved DORAs in 2015, with Delaware, Dublin, Hilliard, Powell and Worthington following suit. After learning there wasn’t an increase in crime related to the DORA, Westerville City Council approved the Uptown DORA a couple months ago on May 18, and council will conduct an annual evaluation.
In response to a frequently asked question, the city said, “DORAs have been shown to have positive impacts in other cities that include increased foot traffic, increased spending and increased outdoor gathering in a more COVID-safe environment. Uptown merchants that serve alcohol will be able to serve more customers within safety guidelines for social distancing. The experiences and responses from the Westerville community have been positive. The experiences and responses from our fellow Ohio cities have been overwhelmingly positive.”
The DORA does appear to be a hit so far, although it was requested to have more trashcans in Uptown Westerville.
While the addition of another DORA may not seem like a big deal, it’s unique to Westerville, given its history. At one time Westerville was called “The Dry Capital of the World,” and for good reason. The Anti-Saloon League moved its headquarters from Washington, D.C. to Westerville, where scores of pamphlets supporting temperance and prohibition were printed and mailed. The Anti-Saloon League proved so successful it helped establish prohibition in the United States with the passage of the 18th Amendment to the Constitution.
Sales of alcohol were first prohibited in Westerville in 1859. Two subsequent attempts to open a saloon before the turn of the century resulted in the establishment being blown up by townspeople. Due to its reputation, the town remained dry through much of the 20th century. However, the annexation of 941 acres to the north in 1995 resulted in the city obtaining some alcohol-selling businesses. Ever since, liquor options have been approved throughout the city, although by closer margins than other local communities due to voters citing history and heritage.
According to Wikipedia, beer was served again in Uptown Westerville in 2006. At the time, locals likened it to prohibition being repealed once again.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.