Marietta’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area is in Full Swing
Not quite two months in, and Marietta’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) is already making an impact in the community. Marietta joined dozens of other communities across the state this summer when City Council passed the resolution to enact a DORA downtown following a number of public hearings, meetings, and a public survey. Marietta Main Street and the City of Marietta officially kicked off the first night of DORA on June’s First Friday with a celebration on the lawn of the Armory complete with words of commemoration, lively music from local band OYO, and – of course – a resounding “Cheers!”
In just the first month, over 4,750 DORA cups were processed across ten participating DORA establishments. More than 1,000 DORA drinks were sold the very first weekend. The community wasted no time in taking advantage of the new designation.
“We knew DORA would have a positive impact on our community but we weren’t prepared for how much support our community would show for DORA in its first month,” said Cristie Thomas, Executive Director of Marietta Main Street.
What DORA Looks Like in Marietta
A DORA is a specifically designated area that allows patrons over the age of 21 to purchase alcoholic beverages from a permitted establishment and carry them within a clearly defined area within the City. Established in April 2015 by Section 4301.82 of the Ohio Revised Code, it creates an exemption from the Open Container Law. Under the statute, a person who purchases beer or intoxicating liquor from the holder of a permit with a DORA designation is permitted to have that beverage in an open container at any outdoor location within the DORA.
I loved being able to have a brew and sit by the river to chat with friends!
In downtown Marietta, locals and tourists can enjoy a stroll and a drink on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. year round. Beer, wine, and cocktails can be consumed inside DORA boundaries by purchasing drinks from participating DORA establishments. The DORA boundary extends from Ohio Street to Putnam Street, Post Street to Third Street.
KC Wittekind of Marietta was excited to try it out. “I loved being able to have a brew and sit by the river to chat with friends,” she said, two weeks after the DORA kickoff.
“Since the first night and the following nights we have had very positive feedback from the community,” said Marietta Mayor, Josh Schlicher. “I have had many residents as well as visitors tell me Marietta is a happening place on the weekends. We want Marietta to be a destination and maintain that safe, small town feeling with a friendly welcome mat. The City will continue to make improvements to build upon.”
Mayor Schlicher said the roll out of DORA exceeded his expectations. “The DORA was planned well and was implemented with teamwork from Marietta Main Street and city personnel. It took right off and we look for future growth and the opening of other establishments.”
DORA is just another way to open up downtown to be friendly, inviting and add to the community fellowship.
The goal is to add to the city’s downtown services and assist local restaurants and businesses with another friendly program, said Mayor Schlicher. “DORA is just another way to open up downtown to be friendly, inviting and add to the community fellowship.”
Now, there are eleven participating establishments: 740 Social, Austyn’s Restaurant & Lounge, Donatos, LOOM Lodge 1823 Marietta, Marietta Brewing Company, Over the Moon Pub & Pizza, Peoples Bank Theatre, The Galley, The Original Pizza Place, Tiber Way Grille, and the Town House. Kasandra Ruscitto Pritchett, Manager of The Original Pizza Place and Board Member of Marietta Main Street, said so far, the experience has been a positive one.
The Community Responds
“We’ve loved participating in the DORA and we’ve gotten some great feedback from the community on ways we can improve and some ideas we’re going to try to implement in the future,” said Pritchett. “The DORA couldn’t have started at a better time – as things were opening up and people were starting to go out again. It’s been such an uplifting experience that’s really brought so much positivity to our downtown.”
Some of that feedback is requesting an extension on both the timeframe during which DORA is active and the geographic footprint of the designated area.
We just wish it would start earlier on Fridays and Saturdays while more of the shops are still open.
“We just wish it would start earlier on Fridays and Saturdays while more of the shops are still open,” said Savannah Charlton. “After the shops close, there’s really not too much to do but walk. And then the sun starts going down. It would be nice if the time were extended earlier in the day.”
From participating establishments, Thomas said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. “Some businesses cited having their best sales night ever during June’s First Friday. And, one business went through nearly all of their 500 DORA cups in the very first weekend,” she said. “Plus, the community has shared with us how much they love being able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage and walk around our beautiful downtown enjoying the summer weather at the same time.”
Over twenty downtown retailers allow DORA drinkers to carry and consume drinks inside their business. While many of these businesses are not open during DORA except for First Fridays, those that are see an uptick in late afternoon shopping.
I’ve seen more traffic after 5:00 p.m., including people with DORA cups.
“My shop is open until 6:00 p.m. on Fridays, and I’ve seen more traffic after 5:00 p.m., including people with DORA cups,” said Laura Pytlik, owner of Wit & Whimzy. “So far I’ve had a positive experience with the program, and if the DORA hours began earlier on Fridays and Saturdays we may see even more traffic.”
The Dollars and Sense of DORA
Indirect investment through sales tax and increased shopping is not the only financial benefit the city is enjoying. Marietta’s DORA program is set up to not only sustain itself financially from the small business side, but also give back and support future good work downtown, said Thomas.
“Through the sale of DORA cups and the $1.00 DORA fee rolled onto the consumer, the DORA program covers all expenses for a business to participate and allows for reinvestment in downtown development,” she said.
In June alone, $1,808.99 was generated to support downtown – or, about $.38 per cup.
One of the characteristics that make DORA so great is how highly customizable it can be, all while following guidelines set forth by the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Division of Liquor Control.
“Specifically, $1,628.09 has been earned for Enrich Marietta, our strategic plan for downtown development that includes projects like riverfront enhancement, streetscape design, and more,” said Thomas, “and, $180.90 has been earned for Marietta Main Street – about a nickel per DORA cup – to help offset our efforts to promote the DORA program and to support our own operations.”
Each DORA community in Ohio manages their DORA differently – some require consumers to purchase wrist bands, some get cups sponsored by larger corporations, and some seek grants to cover the costs of the program. In some communities, Main Street organizations or Chambers manage the distribution of cups, sometimes the municipality does, and sometimes a small business does.
“One of the characteristics that make DORA so great is how highly customizable it can be, all while following guidelines set forth by the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Division of Liquor Control,” said Thomas.
In Marietta, consumers can be proud that the $1 DORA fee not only supports small business but also invests in the future of our community.
In Marietta, the City of Marietta has partnered with Marietta Main Street to operate, manage, and promote DORA. “Marietta’s DORA program is sustainably funded as long as the program continues because any DORA cup fees incurred by a participating business are recouped by a $1 DORA fee charged to the consumer per DORA drink,” she said.
While a few have commented on the cost of the cups – that $1.00 is too expensive – the fee has not stopped thousands from paying the fee for the ability to drink while they walk around town.
Thomas said tying Marietta’s DORA program to community reinvestment was vital to cover the costs to business, ensuring no business needs to worry about DORA participation being an ongoing expense to their budget. “In Marietta, consumers can be proud that the $1 DORA fee not only supports small business but also invests in the future of our community.”