New DORA proposal would make most of downtown Dayton an outdoor drinking area

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Few businesses, residents opposed plan in survey; city to review proposal from Downtown Dayton Partnership

Dayton’s only outdoor drinking district could be replaced with a new one that is much bigger and covers most of downtown.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership has submitted a petition to the city that asks to establish a new Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA). It would replace the city’s current drinking district, which mainly includes businesses in and near the Oregon District.

The existing district would be dissolved and incorporated into the new one, and dozens of downtown drinking and dining destinations and other types of businesses would be located within the new boundaries.

“It will bring all of downtown together and everyone will benefit,” said Rob Strong, owner of Canal Street Arcade & Deli, which is located inside the proposed boundary lines on East First Street, near Day Air Ballpark. “With baseball season underway, I hope Canal can get business from it. I think it’s going to be a good business boost.”

Consumers in Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas can purchase alcohol in special to-go cups from participating establishments that they can carry outside onto the street.

Some businesses inside the drinking district that do not sell alcohol allow people to bring their alcoholic drinks inside when they shop.

The new proposed district would cover most of the Central Business District and Webster Station and would still include the segment of East Fifth Street in the Oregon District.

A map of the proposed outdoor refreshment area indicates the new boundaries would be the river to the north, Wilkinson Street to the west and Keowee and Webster streets to the east. The southern boundary lines are more irregular, bouncing in places from Sixth Street to Washington Street to Fifth Street and a few other roads.

Like the existing Oregon District DORA, the new proposed district would operate seven days a week, from noon to midnight. The existing refreshment area launched in late summer of 2020.

Dayton’s DORA, along with Out on 5th (closing Fifth Street to car traffic on weekends) helped the Oregon District through tough times during the COVID pandemic, when many people were reluctant to dine and drink indoors, said Sandy Gudorf, president of the Downtown Dayton Partnership.

More than 100 stakeholders, including business owners, property owners and residents, helped create a plan intended to chart a course for downtown’s recovery coming out of the pandemic, and an expanded DORA was a top priority, Gudorf said.

“It’s really a strategy to enhance the visitor experience — that’s what this is all about,” Gudorf said. “People really enjoy it and they see it as an amenity and they see it as another reason to come to downtown Dayton.”

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Downtown Dayton has been transformed in recent years by new housing and by the opening of many new first-floor businesses, including restaurants, bars, brew pubs and breweries.

Some downtown business owners and developers say they are eager to see the drinking district expanded to include their businesses and properties.

Downtown Dayton is a very walkable community that is getting more connected every day with so much new development and activation, said Chris Dimmick, managing partner of Sueño and Tender Mercy, located at 607 E. Third Street.

“We hope the expansion catalyzes more mobility in and around downtown as a whole,” he said. “We’re all working towards making downtown a uniquely collaborative place to come explore and experience.”

Sueño, an upscale Mexican restaurant, and Tender Mercy, an upscale bar, are inside the new proposed boundaries.

A survey of more than 150 downtown businesses that are located inside the new proposed DORA boundaries found that more than 70% support an expansion of the outdoor drinking district, according to information submitted to the city.

The survey found that only 4% of businesses and 13% of residents who responded opposed an expansion.

The Downtown Dayton Partnership’s petition will be reviewed by a committee that includes representatives from various city departments like public works, economic development, law, police and planning and community development.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

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