There’s ‘strong’ support to expand Dayton’s outdoor drinking district



Downtown Dayton’s outdoor drinking district has been very popular, and some notable businesses and developers are pushing to expand its boundaries to cover a larger section of the center city and include more restaurants, breweries and drinking establishments.

“Expanding the (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) north would create a bridge to connect the Oregon District and Webster Station all the way up to the ballpark,” said Nick Bowman, co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing for Warped Wing Brewing Co., which has a taproom near but outside of the open-air drinking district. “Anything we can do to create excitement and uniqueness for downtown will help drive people back to the city therefore resulting in more foot traffic and sales.”

Dayton City Commission approved creating the city’s first and so far only Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in early 2020, and it launched months later, in early September.

Inside the drinking district, bar and restaurant patrons can purchase alcohol in to-go cups that they can carry and consume outside on the street, sidewalk and in other public areas.

The drinking district includes all of the Oregon District business district, located on East Fifth Street, plus some areas east of there and along Wayne Avenue.

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

The DORA stretches west to Main Street and includes the Radisson Hotel Dayton Convention Center and the Dayton Convention Center.

Some businesses and developers with properties and projects that are in downtown but outside of the drinking district want to see the boundary lines redrawn.

Bowman, with Warped Wing, said he thinks an expanded drinking area will create more opportunities for new downtown events, and greater freedom of movement also means people might decide to visit more local businesses.

Warped Wing, located about a block and a half north of East Fifth Street, has reached out to the Downtown Dayton Partnership to express its interest in becoming part of the outdoor refreshment area, Bowman said.

Crawford Hoying and Woodard Development, two of downtown Dayton’s leading developers, also are both in favor of expanding the drinking district to include the Water Street District, according to Bob Hoying, principal at Crawford Hoying.

Crawford Hoying and Woodard Development have constructed and opened hundreds of new apartments in recent years in downtown around and near the baseball stadium and riverfront, as well as new offices and commercial spaces filled by well-liked restaurants and bars.

“Not only will an expanded DORA connect the neighborhoods in downtown Dayton, but it will also lead to additional vibrancy allowing for cost-effective events which will generate foot traffic and increase sales,” Hoying said. “We believe that the DORA will also help attract new residents and businesses to the area.”

Crawford Hoying has projects in Dublin and Cincinnati that have significantly benefitted from outdoor drinking districts, Hoying said.

The Water Street District is in the Webster Station neighborhood, which is home to Day Air Ballpark, where the Dayton Dragons play.

The area has been a hotbed of development activity.

Webster Station has a wide variety of bars and restaurants, including Brixx Ice Co., Local Cantina, Canal Street Arcade & Deli, Southern Belle Tavern, Lock 27 taproom, Sueño, Tender Mercy, Dayton Beer Co., Barrel House, Flyboy’s Deli, Gulzar’s Indian Cuisine, White Lotus Cafe, Dayton Barrel Works and Agnes All Natural Grill.

Newer additions include Moeller Brew Barn and Little Fish Brewing Co.

Downtown Dayton Partnership President Sandy Gudorf said there is “strong” interest in enlarging the outdoor drinking district.

“We are working with our food and beverage businesses as well as other constituents in the downtown area to take a look at what this district might look like,” she said.

She said multiple expansion options are under consideration and final recommendations about a potential expansion could come within the next couple of weeks.

State legislation went into effect this past spring that changed the rules governing designated outdoor drinking districts.

Drinking districts in cities of Dayton’s size can now be up to 640 contiguous acres, or one square mile, which is double the previous size limit, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce.

Dayton’s current outdoor district covers about 42 acres, according to city staff.

Also, Ohio cities with more than 50,000 residents now can create up to six DORAs.

Other Ohio cities have recently decided to expand their outdoor drinking areas, including Springboro, Akron, Bowling Green and Perrysburg.

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