January 10, 2020

City council considers outdoor refreshment area

A proposal to allow outdoor drinking and strolling through uptown Oxford during months when most Miami students are not on campus is being considered by the city administration.

The Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) would allow adult residents and visitors to buy beer in open containers and walk around with them within the designated area.

The Ohio state government created the DORA program by passing Substitute Bill 47 on April 30, 2015. Since then, DORA locations have opened up in Middletown and Hamilton.

Oxford Assistant City Manager Jessica Greene has been working on the idea for the past two years, dating back to her previous job as director of the Enjoy Oxford visitors bureau. Visiting DORAs in other cities inspired her to propose one for her hometown.

“I spoke to a lot of community leaders and they felt it didn’t have a lot of negative impact and it did seem to bring people out,” Greene said.

Greene worked with Oxford Economic Development Director Alan Kyger and Police Chief John Jones to outline a proposal which would be limited to Miami’s summer and winter terms, when relatively few students are on campus, Greene said.

The proposed DORA would run from Beech Street east to Campus Avenue, and from Church Street south to Walnut Street. Drinks would have to be purchased from vendors in the area in specially designed cups and the vendors would be responsible for checking IDs to make sure purchasers were of legal drinking age, according to the preliminary proposal. The DORA would be open from noon until 9:30 p.m., Thursdays through Sundays.

This overlay on a map of uptown Oxford shows the proposed boundaries of the DORA. Photo provided by Jessica Greene

“It really is not to encourage drinking,” said Greene, rather saying it was to encourage community interaction and enjoyment of Oxford. Being a lifetime Oxford resident, Greene said it would take improved behavior by the students to keep a DORA open here during the fall and spring semesters. 

Greene said the DORA would cost the city approximately $6,000 with $1,800 dedicated to signage. Her hope is that sponsorship by local businesses could bring those prices down.

DORA is still in the conceptual stage, having first been discussed at a city council work session on Dec. 17.  The next steps are to craft sample legislation, a public education campaign and social media promotion before presenting the council with a formal piece of legislation. Greene said it could be possible to do all that and, if council approves, have a DORA ready for operation this summer. 

For now, Greene says questions of the area’s signage still need to be answered. Whether the signs should be permanent and how they should be designed are concerns from Greene and members of council. Councilor Edna Southard noted at the December work session that the Public Arts Commission of Oxford could design the signs and beverage cups.