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Akron may expand downtown Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area later this summer

DORA boundary Lock 3
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Currently, patrons can consume open alcoholic beverages outdoors in the Lock 3 area, pictured here. If approved by the state, the DORA expansion would extend 145 acres.

Akron is one step closer to expanding its downtown open-container area.

If approved by the state, Akron’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) would cover about 145 acres and include nearly 40 downtown establishments, said Gert Wilms, Akron’s chief of staff.

“I’m very excited for the city and the opportunity this is going to present,” Wilms said.

Currently, Akron’s DORA region includes just four downtown businesses in the Lock 3 area. The proposed new boundary would extend from the south side at R. Shea Brewing to Lock 15 Brewing Company at the north, she said.

“We’ve heard from many downtown businesses and residents that they would love to see an expanded DORA,” Mayor Dan Horrigan said in a press release. “We’re confident after seeing the success of the DORA in its current limited capacity that expanding is the right choice to create a more accessible, beautiful Main St. that supports and serves businesses, workers, and the public.”

Akron City Council unanimously approved the city's application to expand the boundary during its meeting Monday night. The document will now be sent to state regulators for review.

If approved by the state, the DORA expansion would likely take effect in August, according to the release.

In a DORA region, patrons can take their opened alcoholic beverages outside and consume them, as long as they stay within in the approved boundary. Drinks must be purchased from a DORA-approved business and in a designated DORA cup, according to the state.

Akron’s current DORA area encompasses just under 20 acres and was approved in May 2020 test out the idea, Wilms said.

Since then, there have been no incidents or criminal activity directly related to the DORA area, and feedback from both business owners and patrons has been positive, she added.

“We could not have been more pleased with how our original DORA went,” Wilms said. “There were no issues, no criminal reports out of it, and the few bars that were in it actually really enjoyed it, and said they had pretty good feedback from the community, as well as their own sales.”

The extended DORA would allow patrons to enjoy downtown Akron more easily, she added. The idea is that someone could grab a drink at one restaurant and food at another, while also continuing to enjoy the atmosphere of the area’s outdoor entertainment, such as Lock 3.

“It’s continuing and really encouraging people to stay in that environment, enjoy their time; you can walk from one event to the other safely, and just continue to enjoy our downtown,” Wilms said.

City officials are optimistic that the DORA expansion will have a significant economic impact on the downtown businesses, she added.

“Expansion of the downtown DORA will help create continuity between downtown retail locations, as well as facilitate more café dining to help downtown entrepreneurs grow and sustain their businesses,” Suzie Graham, president and CEO of the Downtown Akron Partnership, said in the city’s release. “The footprint will also improve the experience and economic impact of downtown festivals and events, allowing them to better integrate with small businesses and build a more vibrant downtown.”

The city’s DORA application also includes a safety and sanitation plan. Akron police officers will regularly patrol the DORA boundary, with extra officers on Thursdays through Sundays during peak times.

Additionally, twenty trash receptacles will be serviced daily in the new DORA footprint, according to the release. City staff will empty the receptacles, and DAP and Lock 3 staff will assist with trash collection.

DORA boundaries were approved in Ohio in 2015. In addition to Akron, several Northeast Ohio cities, including Shaker Heights, Canton, Kent and Hudson have designated open container areas through DORA.

There are currently no DORA boundaries in Cleveland.

Wilms said they were inspired to expand Akron’s DORA after the success of Canton’s DORA boundary, which stretches across Centennial Park downtown.

View the proposed new DORA map below.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.