Ravenna business owners and city council assure safety as DORA vote approaches

Image of an older white man in a cap and polo shirt with his right arm resting on the bar of his windery
West Main Street Winery and Brewery owner Jim Wade. Ben Pagani/The Portager

If Ravenna joins the other 99 Ohio Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas this summer and brings open container alcoholic beverages to downtown, local businesses and city council members promised it would be done safely.

But not everyone is convinced a DORA would be a great idea for the city, with some residents concerned the benefits don’t outweigh the risks involved with open alcohol. 

The DORA would allow patrons to legally walk around with an alcoholic beverage that has been served by a liquor-permit-holding establishment. A map prepared by the city and proposed by Ravenna Mayor Frank Seman shows that DORA drinks would be allowed on Main Street from Sycamore to Prospect Street and Poplar to Spruce. City Council President Andrew Kluge said he expected a vote on the DORA at the next regular council meeting June 6.

“I don’t know how many additional patrons would be brought into the community by being able to carry an alcoholic beverage outside as opposed to remaining inside,” said Ravenna resident Tim Thomas during a May 23 city council meeting. “I don’t think I can think of any situation where the presence of alcoholic beverages has enhanced or created a better situation for people.”

West Main Street Winery & Brewery owner and winemaker Jim Wade quickly addressed the concerns of people sharing the same sentiment as Thomas. 

“My license is on the line, so anybody who would walk out of my establishment is going to be vetted very heavily before they walk out with a beer,” Wade said. “I assure you that if there’s any trouble from anybody, they won’t be coming back into my establishment.”

Ravenna’s DORA information page shows Cimmaron Lounge, Tavern 1888 and West Main Street Winery & Brewery are the only downtown businesses with necessary qualifying liquor permits to serve DORA beverages. 

Wade said he’s worked with the other licensed business owners and made a plan for DORA to operate safely. 

The vendors are looking to purchase cups for serving DORA drinks and buying wristbands that will be replaced each week so residents don’t try to reuse the same ones.

“We’ve already come to an agreement. We are going to coordinate with each other and make sure that everything goes smoothly,” Wade said.

Main Street in downtown Ravenna. Ben Pagani

Seman cited two major concerns in his DORA application to city council: safety and sanitation, suggesting that officials are all in on protecting the public.

Seman said Ravenna police would be responsible for patrolling the DORA. The city police department is located within the DORA boundaries.

Ravenna Fire and EMS would also be granted permission to set up extra equipment and provide additional first responders in the event of a larger planned event within the DORA.

Addressing sanitation concerns, the application said there are 74 trash bins located within Ravenna’s planned DORA. Each of the three businesses serving DORA drinks would be required to provide two additional receptacles near their premises. 

City Service Director Kay Dubinsky said the sanitation plan is sufficient enough to work if Ravenna establishes the DORA.

Ravenna City Council had been eyeing an early June start for possible DORA operations to begin.

Ravenna’s DORA would take place each week from Sunday through Saturday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. as well as permitted special events.

Events like Art on Main, which begins in downtown Ravenna on June 11, are a possible special event where DORA hours could change, as stated on Ravenna’s DORA information page.

All three downtown businesses would like to organize special events in downtown Ravenna, like possibly bringing a small jazz festival to Main Street, potentially attracting more visitors to the area over the approaching summer weekends.

Ravenna could become the third municipality in Portage County to approve a DORA. Kent began operating its DORA in summer 2020, and Garrettsville adopted its own plan in June 2021. 

Read: Kent will expand the DORA to accommodate two more businesses

Ravenna City Council has discussed the possibility of a DORA at least six times since August 2021.

DORA was established by state lawmakers in 2015 and has been part of the Ohio Revised Code ever since.

Ben Pagani
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