Drink it in: City approves large DORA drinking district for downtown Dayton

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Starting in mid-June, most of downtown Dayton is likely to become an outdoor drinking district, which many people say is a good thing for urban vibrancy and increasing leisure spending in the heart of the city.

The Dayton City Commission approved legislation on Wednesday that dissolves the current Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in the Oregon District and replaces it with a new downtown drinking district that is more than nine times as large and that will include many drinking and eating establishments.

“Our downtown business community is really excited about this,” said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership. “The primary reason to do this is to support and help strengthen our small businesses.”

The new outdoor drinking district still needs state approval, but the proposal appears to meet all of the legislative requirements.

The Oregon District DORA, which launched in September 2020, has been widely praised for helping keep many businesses in the Oregon District afloat during challenging times due to the COVID pandemic.

Some leaders and businesses say many establishments are still struggling, and a stakeholder group tasked with developing a recovery plan for downtown identified a DORA expansion as a top priority for assisting the business community.

There are nearly 80 food and beverage businesses within the new downtown DORA boundaries, which includes Oregon District businesses that already participate in the existing district, Gudorf said. Other businesses in downtown that do not serve alcohol will have the option to allow people carrying alcohol in DORA cups to come into their stores to shop.

This is going to be a new amenity for downtown visitors, residents and workers, because they will be able to enjoy a drink while walking around and visiting popular destinations like RiverScape, Day Air Ballpark (Dragons stadium) and local shops and establishments, she said.

“It’s all about creating a user-friendly downtown,” she said. The new drinking district will operate seven days a week from noon until midnight. Outdoor drinking in downtown can be suspended for special events and emergencies.

The downtown DORA is another way for the city to support small businesses that are continuing to recover from the pandemic, said Tony Kroeger, Dayton’s division manager of planning.

“As downtowns are facing such significant challenges, they really need to be a place where people can learn, live, work, play — and this is part of the play part,” Kroeger said. “It’s another option to use the public realm.”

Bar and restaurant patios are popular downtown, but with DORA, people will no longer have to squeeze into compact and penned-in spaces to have a drink outside, Kroeger said.

“It’s not a silver bullet — it’s a nice thing to be able to offer, and it’s a nice way to support the small businesses that very much want this,” he said.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Marla Glander, district manager for the Water Street District in downtown for Crawford Hoying, said the new DORA would generate more business for commercial tenants in the Water Street area, which has seen tremendous redevelopment growth in recent years.

Glander said the outdoor drinking district will give people yet another reason to want to live in the Water Street District, which has added hundreds of new apartments, with more on the way.

“We totally believe in downtown Dayton,” she said. “We have put our money here and we continue to build in Dayton.”

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