DORA zone launches today


By Katie Milligan

Contributing writer

This weekend, May 12-13, the city of Urbana will officially launch its Downtown Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA), a designated and controlled open-container alcohol consumption zone which will enhance the entertainment offerings of the city’s historic downtown shopping district. The official launch time is 5 p.m. today.

Doug Crabill, the City of Urbana Community Development Manager, has been involved in the DORA project since its beginning stages, when a renewed interest in revitalizing downtown Urbana created an increased incentive and opportunity for new restaurants and bars to move into the area.

The introduction to the DORA plan states: “The approval of the Urbana Downtown Revitalization District in June 2020 by the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control and this district’s later amendment in September of 2021 has expanded the availability of D5 liquor licenses [which allow an establishment to serve beer, wine, and liquor] downtown. As a result… the number of establishments operating downtown or planning to operate downtown has already increased.”

Crabill explained, “The idea is to have these areas where you already have clusters of restaurants and entertainment, and allow more licenses within those specific areas. The DORA is smaller than the Revitalization District, but the boundaries overlap.”

Following this expanded availability for D5 licenses, interest in opening a DORA zone sparked because of the success of DORAs in other area communities similar to Urbana in size, culture, and demographics, such as Bellefontaine, Marysville, Springfield, Troy, Piqua, Sidney and Wooster.

“There was an interest in the community, especially from the downtown businesses, that wanted to see a DORA established,” said Crabill.

The Ohio Revised Code calls for Mayor Bill Bean, and the city administration, led by Director of Administration Kerry Brugger, to prepare and submit a plan to the city council for consideration, which was presented on Oct. 18, 2022. From there, council considered the legislation, holding a public hearing as required by the Revised Code, and later passed an ordinance in December 2022 approving the plan and officially establishing the DORA.

After the Urbana City Council approved the DORA plan, the application was filed with the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Liquor Control, who reviewed the portfolio of documents. Official approval from the State of Ohio for the Urbana DORA then came through on Jan. 25, 2023.

The geographic boundaries of the DORA zone are outlined in the map pictured, which is posted in signage throughout the area. The area stretches east to west from 299 Scioto Street to 199 Miami Street (including Monument Square) and 119 East Court Street to 127 West Court Street. From north to south, the area ranges from 299 North Main Street to 216 South Main Street (including Monument Square). Within these limits, certain addresses will be excluded from the DORA and labeled as such, including government buildings (the Champaign County Courthouse and Municipal Building) and institutional buildings (the Masonic Temple). Approximately 35 signs will be installed throughout the DORA to clearly delineate its boundaries.

Crabill’s role included drafting the original DORA plan, benchmarking from other communities around the state with successful DORAs. Crabill also sat on a local committee of stakeholders – some establishment owners, some business owners, and other various interested constituencies – to collect feedback at various stages of the process and incorporate those inputs into the plan.

“I remember looking at Piqua’s plan, Wooster’s plan, Troy’s plan … to try to look at best practices in how they put their plans together,” said Crabill.

Some communities, for example, started off with the DORA open only on weekends, and then moved to seven days a week operation about six months to a year in, while others opened at seven days a week with consistent hours to be less confusing for the public. Urbana will follow the latter pattern, launching with the DORA immediately open daily between the hours of 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. However, the Urbana Director of Administration also holds the authority to issue special event permits that extend the hours of the DORA within its bounds; examples may include Art Affair on the Square, the Pumpkin Walk, Small Business Saturday, and Christmas Shop Hop, to name a few.

Additionally, Crabill has been conversing with local leaders in other communities with a DORA to collect best practices and lessons learned surrounding patrol and enforcement. Back in 2020, city of Urbana leaders met via Zoom with Marysville local leaders to discuss Marysville’s process, and Crabill has also held discussions with Bellefontaine’s city manager.

“Both indicated that they’d had minimal issues with violations or any type of rowdiness,” Crabill said. “Everything had gone very smoothly. Hearing that from the other communities, we didn’t feel that (the DORA) would be adverse.”

However, Section F in the DORA plan outlines specific measures that will be taken for public safety. For example, there will be daily 24/7 police and fire protection on duty in the city as always, and the DORA zone will be routinely patrolled with police presence. As the DORA plan states, there are currently four Urbana Police Division officers assigned to first shift, five to second shift, and four to third shift. For the Urbana Fire Division, there are five firefighters assigned to each of the three shifts. In the case of a special event, such as a festival or concert, additional security will be added.

The DORA plan also details that extra measures have been taken for sanitation, including 17 30-gallon trash containers that are collected multiple times per week, constant monitoring for litter, an assigned street sweeper, and the potential to later add recycling receptacles within the DORA’s boundaries. Organizers for large, special events may procure temporary restrooms or port-a-johns, but on a regular basis, most patrons will continue to utilize the restrooms at the establishments serving DORA beverages.

Recently, Crabill and his team met with the downtown businesses that would be serving DORA beverages to cover the plan in detail.

“They also have a role in this: educating the public, not overserving, and explaining the boundaries and rules,” said Crabill.

For example, per the Revised Code, an individual cannot purchase a DORA beverage in one restaurant or bar and take it into another restaurant or bar that sells DORA beverages. However, one could take a DORA beverage into an establishment with no liquor license, such as a retail store, if the owner is welcoming and permits that.

The beverages must be consumed only within the DORA and from a specifically-designated DORA cup, which must be clear and hold no more than 16 ounces of liquid. Additionally, each cup is single-use and cannot be refilled.

As listed in Section D of the DORA plan, the following establishments are included within the boundaries of the DORA and can sell DORA beverages (this updated list includes both issued and pending liquor licenses): the Urbana Brewing Company, Our Kitchen Window, Mayflower’s Chinese Restaurant, Coppertop (or Miami Street Tavern), Teabaggers, Fusion 40 83, Cafe Paradiso, Bracken’s Pub, Abuela’s Kitchen, The Spotted Owl Coffee Bar, Tapas Pequenos, and the Gloria Theatre.

Crabill also pointed out that though the DORA directly benefits restaurants and bars, it has secondhand benefits for other downtown merchants as well.

“It also helps the retail stores to have that additional foot traffic, too,” he said.

The Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, led by Executive Director Sara Neer and Visitor Experience Representative Polly Trenor, is heading up the marketing efforts for the DORA, with the help of graphic designer April Miller from Urbana’s own Boldman Printing. Materials include signage, cups, and a map all marked with the DORA logo. The Chamber has spearheaded distribution of those materials to DORA establishments.

Within the past several weeks, this signage and stenciled pavement markings – reading “NO ALCOHOL BEYOND THIS POINT” alongside the DORA logo – have appeared around Monument Square, along with a graphic map to assist DORA customers in understanding the limits of the area. Additionally, the city will provide all merchants downtown within the DORA zone with placards to place outside of their establishment, clarifying their stance towards DORA beverages.

As he gauges the community’s sentiments towards this new addition to downtown, Crabill is tracking only positive energy and excitement.

“There could be concerns out there, but when we had the public hearing process, we didn’t have anybody come forward against it,” he said. “If anything, I’ve had more people ask me when it’s going to start. It’s been successful in the other places it’s been established in our region, and I’m hopeful that that will be the case here.”

In particular, Crabill feels that Urbana’s process of collecting best practices from other communities “gave us a lot of confidence that this could be done successfully and safely.”

Neer added, “Business owners are excited about it downtown.” Trenor also shared that the Chamber’s first social media post regarding the DORA brought 90% positive feedback.

“As with any new thing that comes to the area, a reminder to just be patient as the liquor establishment and the businesses within the DORA boundaries get used to the process,” said Trenor. “It’s going to be a learning experience for everyone, but with everyone’s patience and collaboration, it will be an overall positive adventure.”

Neer echoed Trenor’s and Crabill’s comments, pointing out the DORA’s opportune timing.

“It’s coming at the right time, because we have a lot of new businesses now open downtown that are able to participate in the DORA, and those are the businesses most excited for it. A lot of thought has gone into this whole process; we’ve done a lot of research. We’re not reinventing the wheel. This is something that other communities have already done, and they’ve worked out a lot of the kinks.”

After the soft launch this weekend, Crabill stated he city plans to host a more advertised, formalized launch soon to follow.

The DORA plan best states the city of Urbana’s intentions with this addition to the community: “The overall purpose of establishing a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) for Downtown Urbana will continue to build upon increased economic activity, investment, and development within the downtown” – “and ultimately furthering the patronage of new and existing dining and shopping, not just for the local community, but folks that may be visiting us,” Crabill added.

To read the DORA plan, please visit

More information is available at and

Reach Katie at [email protected]

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