Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area Begins this Friday
by Evan Chwalek
A loosening of open container restrictions will be implemented in downtown Canton this Friday, allowing patrons of local bars and restaurants to consume alcoholic beverages publicly for a small fee. The Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORA, is the culmination of more than a year of research and planning by Canton City Council, the Ohio State Liquor Control Board, and the Downtown Canton Special Improvement District.
Mike Gill, President of the Downtown Canton Special Improvement District, is overseeing the project with assistance from city government. The organization is a nonprofit that aims to strengthen the continued revitalization of downtown Canton.
Canton’s 68.7 acre area roughly stretches from its southern border at 4th Street SW to 6th Street NW with and Walnut Avenue and McKinley Avenue generally serving as the east and west boundaries respectively. Canton will be the second Ohio city to approve and implement such an area, after the 104 acre DORA in Middletown, Ohio took effect late 2015.
The DORA will be subject to a number of rules, limiting when and how much individuals can consume, among other factors. Open all week from noon to midnight, the Canton area’s hours are the broadest to be implemented in the state so far. Only one 16 ounce cup per person will be permitted in the DORA in an attempt to curb underage drinking.
An increased law enforcement presence will enforce the new rules, with off-duty Canton Police Officers patrolling the area and marked police vehicles present on the weekends. “[Canton PD] will be down here to help people understand the rules of the DORA” Gill said.
Beverages purchased to go will be served in special identifying cups and will be subject to a one dollar fee. The revenue collected from the fee will be managed by the SID and will offset the costs associated with the DORA, including city beautification and the increased law enforcement presence.
Liquor permit holding bars and restaurants within the DORA are not subject to additional applications to serve alcohol to go and have the opportunity to participate or opt out.
Establishments will not permit the consumption of outside beverages on their premises, so all alcoholic beverages ordered to go must be consumed outside. Concerns that individuals will pour their own drinks into the designated cups, attempt to bring them into other establishments or the potential for underage drinking top the list for local business owners.
The city’s proposal cites a number of popular festivals and activities that will gain a new dimension with the implementation of the DORA, including farmer’s markets, First Fridays, the Canton Blues Festival and the Hall of Fame Festival. Going forward, craft beer and its rise in popularity could drive future celebrations in the area. Gill is particularly excited about creating a downtown hub with a rotating lineup of arts-related programming, saying “We think the DORA will lend itself to meandering outside and enjoying downtown.”