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Proposed Center City DORA

Sip and stroll experience around Downtown and Franklinton

About the DORA

In partnership with the City of Columbus, Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, and the Franklinton Board of Trade, Downtown Columbus, Inc. is excited to lead the effort to bring a new Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) to Downtown Columbus, seamlessly integrating with Franklinton.  

We listened to the community during the 2022 Downtown Strategic Plan process, and their desire was clear: they want more – more activity, more shopping and dining experiences, enhanced connectivity within Downtown and to key neighborhoods. A DORA is a powerful tool to help realize the vision outlined by Columbus residents by increasing the vibrancy of the pedestrian experience, the economic impact of Downtown visitors, and the connectivity between Downtown establishments and events.  

What is a DORA?

In the State of Ohio, a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA, is a specified area of land that a local legislative authority (city council or township trustees) has designated as exempt from certain open container provisions as laid out in Ohio Revised Code Section 4301.82. A DORA allows visitors aged 21 and older to consume an alcoholic beverage purchased from a participating business outdoors within the area’s boundaries, during designated hours, and according to DORA rules. 

Hours of Operation

The proposed DORA would operate seven days a week from 11 am to 10 pm.

Participation in the DORA by a special event that takes place within the DORA boundary would be at the discretion of the special event permit holder and require approval by the City of Columbus Recreation and Parks Department as well as the DORA managing entity. 

Frequently Asked Questions

As we continue to engage with the community and consult with peer cities, we’ve compiled a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to provide insight into the current status of the plan. Please note that these responses will evolve as the plan progresses and reflect the most up-to-date information as of March 2024.

A Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) is a specified area of land that has exemptions to open container permissions. In Columbus, this designation would allow patrons to purchase an alcoholic beverage in a labeled cup to enjoy outside the boundaries of the establishment. Consumption of alcohol not provided in labeled DORA cups would not be allowed within the DORA. Patrons may carry their beverage on the public right-of-way, parks, and other places not specifically excluded from the DORA. Patrons are not permitted to carry their beverage from one permitted establishment (restaurant, bar, or alcohol-serving event) into another, nor from one DORA to another DORA. 

Once the DORA is approved by the State, the boundary scope can be narrowed by City Council for implementation, but not expanded. Expansion would require an entirely new application to go through City Council and the State. Therefore, the City has recommended we propose the largest boundary that would cover all potential areas that might make sense for a DORA in the next 3-5 years.  

Signage will be placed throughout and along the pedestrian boundaries of the DORA. A map with the final boundaries will be utilized heavily in marketing the new DORA. 

One key piece of feedback we heard from the community as part of the 2022 Downtown Strategic Plan, was that while Downtown is well established as the place to go for events and festivals, there is a need for more daily, consistent activation. Implementing the DORA is intended to draw people to Downtown any day of the week. We believe the DORA will be a complementary amenity to both recurring and one-time events in Downtown and Franklinton. When applying for a special event permit with the City, organizers would decide if they want their event to participate in the DORA or not. More specific information can be found below.  

We also heard that this consistency is crucial to small businesses, who already operate in a more variable market due to the nature of Downtown events. A consistent DORA would help lessen the gap between peak times and slower days.  

Lastly, a consistent DORA allows office workers to take full advantage of the proposed new Downtown amenity, with the goal to showcase Downtown as a great place to work and entice employees back to their Downtown office, while attracting new companies to locate in the core. 

No streets will be closed as part of the regular DORA schedule. However, events that take place within the DORA boundary and choose to activate the DORA may include street closures. 

Event organizers can choose whether to have their event included in the DORA or not. If they choose to and are approved y the City to participate in the DORA, event attendees could carry one beverage, in a designated DORA cup, outside of the event perimeter, within the DORA boundary. However, attendees could not carry beverages (even in a DORA cup) into the event perimeter.  

By nature, DORA patrons are limited in the amount of alcohol they can purchase at a time. This means that the DORA will encourage people to explore the pedestrian environment. For example:  

  • A couple grabs dinner before a show at the Ohio Theatre. While walking down High Street to the Theatre, they could sip a glass of wine. 
  • Before exploring the street vendors at Franklinton Friday, a group stops at Land-Grant for to-go drinks.  
  • Wedding guests eat brunch on Sunday morning, grab a mimosa for the walk and explore the retail shops on East Gay Street. 
  • After dinner at Milestone 229, guests extend their visit by taking a drink to-go and exploring the Scioto Mile.

Examining other cities with similarly sized DORAs operating on a fixed schedule, there have been no additional security incidents attributed to the DORA. Both Raleigh, NC and Dayton have outdoor refreshment areas covering extensive areas in their downtowns, with participation from 65+ businesses, and they have reported no security issues since implementing these areas. Additionally, a 2021 survey of 25 DORA communities across Ohio determined that 96% reported no increase in crime as a result of the DORA. 

Community input from a series of community conversations held in winter 2023 will be used to guide the application process with the City and ultimately the State in early 2024. Once approved, we hope to start DORA hours in Spring 2024 to capitalize on the warm weather and summer events.