Urbana’s DORA district helps city grow, businesses open with liquor license

The Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area launched earlier this year and has expanded to include three new businesses.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

The city of Urbana’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, now more commonly known as DORA, has helped allow new businesses to open with the availability of liquor licenses and existing businesses to set sales records, supporters said.

The city has experienced revitalization over the last few years, bringing in new types of businesses to the downtown area.

Community Development Manager Doug Crabill said the DORA is leading to increased foot traffic and retail sales downtown.

“The overall purpose of establishing a DORA for downton Urbana was to build upon increased economic activity, investment and development within downtown,” he said, according to the DORA plan approved by city council. “The establishment of a DORA was intended to assist with the continued revitalization of downtown Urbana by furthering patronage of new and existing dining and shopping options by the local community, region and tourists.”

The DORA is offered seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. It allows people over the age of 21 to purchase an alcoholic beverage in a designated DORA cup from an approved, liquor-permitted establishment, and the purchaser can walk around the designated areas with those cups.

The DORA was launched in downtown Urbana earlier this year on May 12, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony held on June 10.

“The creation of the DORA was coupled with the establishment of the Urbana Downtown Revitalization District by Urbana City Council in 2020 to receive approval from the Ohio Division of Liquor Control to expand the availability of D5 liquor licenses in the downtown area,” Crabill said.

Crabill said the initial DORA boundary was 18.117 acres, and was drawn to include the licensed establishments downtown that are open to the public. The boundaries generally extend outward from Monument Square onto North Main Street, South Main Street, Miami Street, and Scioto Street.

Before becoming a DORA, liquor licenses were limited and presented a barrier to new restaurants, Crabill said.

Since the DORA was approved, three new businesses have joined due to the availability of liquor licenses, including Abuela’s Kitchen, Pequenos Tapas and Wine Bar, and the Spotted Owl. The Gloria Theatre also received a license.

The Spotted Cow recently closed and reopened as a coffee shop, and the new owner does not plan to serve alcohol, Crabill said.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

As of this month, the eligible DORA establishments include: Urbana Brewing Company, 35 Monument Square; Our Kitchen Window, 223 N. Main St.; Mayflowers Chinese Restaurant, 225 N. Main St.; Miami Street Tavern, 116 Miami St.; Teabaggers, 127 N. Main St.; Fusion 40.83, 115 Miami St.; Café Paradiso, 13 Monument Square; Brackens Pub, 106 Miami St.; Abuela’s Kitchen, 23 Monument Square; Tapas Pequenos, 31 Monument Square; and the Gloria Theatre, 216 S. Main St.

Urbana officials have worked closely with the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau throughout the process of getting the DORA established and implementing marketing efforts.

“We also purchased all of the DORA marketing materials and cups up front. We distribute the cups to the liquor permit holders within the DORA. We make $1 off of each cup sold, and those dollars go into a DORA fund held at the Chamber of Commerce. That fund is used for marketing the DORA and ultimately to further downtown revitalization efforts,” said Sara Neer, executive director of the chamber.

There are also several downtown events planned through the end of the year, including the Second Saturdays that started in May, in which several DORA establishments have reported record-breaking sales.

“As far as events go, that is when we see the DORA being utilized the most,” Neer said. “We are looking forward to seeing how the DORA interacts with upcoming events.”

For more information, visit https://www.urbanaohio.com/dora.html.

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