Miamisburg aims to create outdoor drinking area in city’s downtown

A Dayton area city is working toward the creation of its first Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in its resurgent downtown.

The boundaries of the proposed downtown Miamisburg district are Ferry Street to the north, Second Street to the east, most of Miami Avenue to the west and just south of Linden Avenue with a small portion continuing further south past Lock Street, according to a March 12 application to Miamisburg City Council from City Manager Keith Johnson.

“City council has been receptive to the concept of a DORA in downtown Miamisburg, and we’re excited about the upcoming process to explore the issue,” Johnson told this news outlet Wednesday. “We think it has potential as an economic development tool to help our businesses and bring even more activity and vitality to the downtown district.”

The 13 qualified permit holders that likely will be participants in the 41.2-acre DORA include Bennett’s Publical Family Sports Grill, Bullwinkle’s Top Hat Bistro, Curious Styles & Coffee Shop, Eagle’s, Good Time Charlie’s, Lucky Star Brewery, Plaza Theatre, Ron’s Pizza Tavern & Patio, Star City Brewing Company, A Taste of Wine, TJ Chumps, Watermark restaurant and American Legion Post 165.

Eric Walusis, operations manager at Watermark restaurant, said he believes the DORA will be “a definite benefit” for Miamisburg.

“As business owners, we’re all in on the idea, we think it’s going to be great for downtown,” he said.

The proposed DORA would run from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday to Friday and noon to 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Special hours of DORA operation will be allowed as designated in advance by the city manager with the consent of city council.

The DORA not only has the potential to increase foot traffic for area businesses, but also develop and grow new businesses and enhance Miamisburg’s numerous events and attractions, said Walusis, who also is a member of an Economic Restructuring Committee researching DORAs until now.

“When you have foot traffic moving around then maybe you have people experiencing two or three businesses on their visit to the community as opposed to coming and going to one place, staying put and then leaving,” he said.

Each participating permit holder will be required to use and purchase special DORA cups that will be supplied by the city or other local service entity at cost. To have a drink in the DORA, participants would have to have to buy a DORA cup from an approved place.

Businesses within the DORA would decide if they would welcome people carrying beverages into their store.

The proposed DORA was discussed for nearly three years among merchants in various settings, said Katie Frank, Miamisburg’s community development director. Last year, because of COVID-19, “it became more urgent to pursue as a tool to sustain and grow business, especially with outdoor dining/activity increasing,” Frank said.

More serious conversations with restaurants and discussions with other area communities started last fall, she said. That included Hamilton in Butler County, which launched a DORA in 2018 and expanded it in 2020.

“They were one of the earliest DORA districts in the state and they’re also considered one of the most successful,” Walusis said. “We talked to them about their experiences and it just really was very positive. They were able to give us a lot of good feedback and sort of dispel a lot of the myths about having a DORA program.”

Miamisburg City Council held a work session last month to review the plan for creation of a DORA. Public input will be welcomed at 5 p.m. March 30 at The Baum Opera House ahead of a tentatively scheduled April 20 vote by Miamisburg City Council to approve or reject the proposal.

It will cost between $4,000 and $6,000 to purchase the necessary boundary signs and courtesy first-round of cups for area establishments, Frank said.

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