Xenia outdoor drinking district could start in May

Xenia could have an outdoor drinking district starting this spring.

The district will encompass the Towne Square area and the historic downtown area, part of South Detroit Street, part of Main Street and part of South Whiteman Street. The area is about 37 acres in the downtown area.

Xenia City Council will discuss the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) at its meeting today. Council will take a vote and either approve or turn down the DORA on March 25.

Ryan Baker, Xenia’s community development coordinator, said the DORA will be an economic development tool.

“The hope is that someone finishing their dinner on a weekday or their lunch on a Saturday, as opposed to just getting in their car and going home, that they may purchase a DORA beverage and then walk around in some of the shops downtown and spend more time there,” Baker said. “The other municipalities that have done these have seen quite a bit of growth in their retail segment... it gives patrons something else to do.”

If approved, the DORA could be active the first week of May.

Xenia Mayor Sarah Mays was the only member of council to vote ‘no’ on the petition for the DORA last month. Other council members expressed concerns with the DORA being near two addiction treatment facilities downtown.

Baker said he spoke with the treatment centers and had no push back from them on this potential DORA.

Mays said she still has reservations about the DORA, but would get on board if it were to pass a vote by council.

“I’m not opposed to people drinking in an appropriate way, I’m just not comfortable with the drinking being city-endorsed,” Mays said. “I am a huge advocate of our small businesses and downtown. I want to find ways to support them, but I’m not sure if this is it. I don’t want to base our city’s success on alcohol.”

Mays said she thinks it is healthy for council to not agree on everything and to encourage healthy discussions.

Dayton’s Oregon District, Springboro, Springfield, Lebanon and Middletown have established DORA drinking districts. Tipp City recently approved one.

Baker said Springfield’s DORA, even though it is close to a college campus, has had few issues and helped revitalize the downtown area. Baker said some other communities with DORA districts that Xenia has spoken with have seen a reduction in issues or citations in those areas.

“We have family-friendly restaurants, and that’s who is going to use this, somebody having lunch in our Mexican restaurant and wants to finish their margarita while walking around Towne Square,” Baker said.

It will cost the city about $2,000 to start the DORA. City staff have worked with Xenia police about how police would monitor patrons of the DORA and with the Xenia Public Service Department on a sanitation plan for the DORA district.

To have a drink in the DORA, participants would have to have to buy a DORA cup from an approved place.

There are five establishments that hold a liquor license within the proposed DORA area: Devil Wind Brewing at 130 S. Detroit St., the Xenia Elks Lodge at 71 E. Second St., Acapulco Mexican restaurant at 88 Xenia Towne Square, The Buck and Ear at 124 Xenia Towne Square and the Ramada at 300 Xenia Towne Square.

Businesses within the district would choose whether to welcome people carrying beverages in their store. The city would provide signage to make that distinction clear, Baker said. If the DORA is approved, city staff would check with businesses on their comfort level in participating in the DORA.

The hours of operation for the DORA will be from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. These hours could be amended by city council at any time.

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