“DORA” stands for “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area.” Effective since 2015, Ohio law legalized the creation of DORAs in qualifying municipalities and townships (Ohio Revised Code 4301.82 2022). “The DORA essentially draws a mapped-out district, typically within a downtown or mixed-use area, in which patrons 21 and over purchase alcoholic beverages from approved restaurants and carry their drinks outside and within the DORA boundaries” (Wiles 2021). Any person of legal age in a DORA carrying an open container of beer, wine, or liquor is generally exempt from prosecution under the “Open Container Law” (Ohio Revised Code 4301.62 2016) if the drink was purchased from a participating DORA vendor.
This fact sheet is intended as a guide for local decision makers, community planners, economic development professionals, consumers, and businesses to help them better understand how to implement a DORA in their community. It provides background information about relevant laws and actions to help inform community decisions on whether a DORA can be created and its potential impact on communities.
Why Are DORAs Popular?
“Following the enactment of a 2015 state law, Ohio communities began creating areas where open container restrictions are loosened, allowing people to buy, carry and drink alcoholic beverages in specified outdoor areas. These Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas, or DORAs, come in various sizes and locations with varying limitations. The goal is the same: to boost local economies. DORAs aim to boost foot traffic into town centers to create thriving social hubs that can benefit local businesses” (Klein 2022). In light of COVID-19, many Ohio communities have utilized DORA designations to aid local restaurants and businesses that are primarily in the central business districts. Participating residents said they enjoyed having an outdoor meal with family and friends, supporting local businesses, and re-establishing social connections (Keren 2020).
How Is a DORA Created?
According to the Ohio Department of Commerce, “A DORA can be created by applying to the appropriate legislative authority of the municipal corporation or township where the DORA will exist. The application must then be filed by either the executive officer of the applicable municipal corporation or the township fiscal officer" (Ohio Department of Commerce n.d.).
According to the R.C. 4301.82(B), the application must include:
- a map or survey of the proposed DORA in sufficient detail to identify its boundaries, which shall not exceed:
- three hundred twenty contiguous acres or one-half square mile if the municipal corporation or township has a population of more than thirty-five thousand
- one hundred fifty contiguous acres if the municipal corporation or township has a population of thirty-five thousand or less
- a statement describing the nature and types of establishments that are or will be within the proposed DORA
- a statement that the proposed DORA will encompass at least four A-1, A-1-A, A-1c, A-2, A- 2f, or D class, excluding D-6 or D-8, liquor permit holders
- evidence that how the land is used within the proposed DORA is in accord with the municipal corporation's or township's master zoning plan or map
- proposed public health and safety requirements, as outlined in Ohio Revised Code 4301.82(F) for the DORA
Within 45 days after the application is filed with the legislative authority of a municipal corporation or township, the legislative authority shall:
- publish public notice of the application in one newspaper of general circulation in the municipal corporation or township, or as provided in section 7.16 of the Ohio Revised Code (Ohio Revised Code 7.16 2014)
- ensure that the notice states that the application is on file in the office of the clerk of the municipal corporation or township, and is available for inspection by the public during regular business hours
- indicate in the notice the date and time of any public hearing it will hold regarding the application
Not earlier than 30 but not later than 60 days after initial publication of the notice, the legislative authority must:
- approve or disapprove the application in an ordinance or resolution by an affirmative majority vote
- give public notice, like above, prior to adopting an ordinance or resolution
(Ohio Revised Code 4301.82(C) 2022)
Depending on the vote, the legislative authority must also:
- send notice, if the DORA is approved, to the Division of Liquor Control and the Department of Public Safety, Investigative Unit, stating that the DORA was created, along with a description of the area that constitutes the DORA
- if not approved, the local legislative authority can choose not to create the DORA, or either the executive officer of the municipal corporation or the township’s fiscal officer may change the application to request local legislative approval
If the local legislative authority approves the DORA, the ordinance or resolution that created the DORA must, as specified in Ohio Revised Code 4301.82(F)(1), ensure the public health and safety is maintained within the DORA by including all the following items in the ordinance or resolution:
- the specific boundaries, including street addresses, of the DORA
- the number, spacing, and type of signage that will designate the DORA
- the DORA’s house of operation
- the number of staff needed to ensure public safety within the DORA
- a sanitation plan that will help maintain the appearance and public health within the DORA
- the number of staff needed to carry out the sanitation plan
- a requirement that beer and intoxicating liquor be served in some sort of plastic bottle or container within the DORA
Temporary F Class permit holders that will operate within a DORA will receive a DORA designation from the Division of Liquor Control when the temporary permit is issued. F permit holders are subject to the same laws and rules as any other D Class permit holder; and cannot block the ingress or egress to the DORA or any other liquor permit premises located within the DORA.”
How Many DORAs Can a Legislative Authority Create?
The number of DORAs that may be established in a municipal corporation or township, and a DORA's maximum size, depends on the population, as determined by the most recent regular federal decennial census, of the municipal corporation or township. The chart below summarizes the number of DORAs a legislative authority can create (Ohio Revised Code 4301.82(D) 2015).
|Population of Municipal Corporation or Township||Maximum # of DORAs||Size of DORA|
|More than 50,000||Six||Up to contiguous acres or 1 square mile|
|35,001-50,000||Three||Up to 320 contiguous acres or ½ square mile|
|35,000 or less||One||Up to 150 contiguous acres|
How Do You Expand or Dissolve a DORA?
A municipal corporation or township may expand an existing DORA provided that the expansion would not exceed the maximum size of the DORA permitted by law, as shown in the chart above (Ohio Department of Commerce n.d.).
Assuming the existing DORA can be expanded, the legislative authority must:
- follow the same procedures, like public notice and passing a resolution or ordinance, which were utilized to create the DORA
- send the same information to the Department of Commerce Division required for the DORA's initial creation, but also include a new street boundary list of all streets, not just the newly added streets
If the existing DORA is at its maximum size as permitted by law, then the original DORA cannot be expanded. The legislative authority could, however, create a new DORA in the same manner the existing DORA was created if it has not reached the maximum number of DORAs that it can create in its jurisdiction.
A municipal corporation or township may dissolve all or part of an existing DORA. To do so, it must:
- follow the same procedures, such as providing public notice and passing a resolution, or passing an ordinance, which were utilized to create the DORA
- send the same information to the Department of Commerce Division required for a DORA's initial creation, including whether the entire DORA or a portion of the DORA is being dissolved
- if a portion of the DORA is dissolved, the legislative authority must provide the updated boundaries that remain within the DORA, including any street listings
Upon receipt of the dissolution notice, the Department of Commerce Division must revoke all DORA designations issued to establishments within the dissolved area.
How Long Does a DORA Last?
The legislative authority of a municipal corporation or township in which a DORA is located is required to review the operation of the DORA every five years as long as the DORA is in operation.
As part of the review, the legislative authority must adopt an ordinance or resolution either approving the DORA's continued operation or dissolving it. Prior to adopting the ordinance or resolution, the legislative authority must give notice of the proposed action by publication in the same manner as specified above in this document (Ohio Department of Commerce n.d.).
DORAs can support the economic vitality of downtown areas, especially as they recover from the pandemic. Local communities should work with their appropriate legislative authority to ensure that public health and safety are being met when creating these establishments. Communities across Ohio have created DORA districts and have found they can provide an additional attraction for patrons, create a destination for dining and entertainment, and promote building a lively, pedestrian-friendly environment in the area (City of Sandusky n.d.).
Department of Public Safety. n.d. “Ohio Investigative Unit.” Ohio State Highway Patrol. Accessed July 15, 2022.
Ohio.gov. n.d. “Liquor Control (DOLC).” Liquor Control. Accessed July 15, 2022.
City of Sandusky. n.d. “Sandusky DORA.” Planning & Zoning. Accessed July 15, 2022.
Keren, Phil. 2020. “Hudson Residents Give Positive Reviews to New Outdoor Refreshment Area.” Akron Beacon Journal, August 6, 2020. beaconjournal.com/story/news/coronavirus/2020/08/06/hudson-residents-give-positive-reviews-to-new-outdoor-refreshment-area/112829798/.
Klein, Brandon. 2022. “Central Ohio Sees Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area Boom.” City Scene. March 4, 2022.
Ohio Department of Commerce. n.d. “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas (DORA).” Local Government Resources. Accessed July 15, 2022.
Ohio Rev. Code 4301.82. 2022. “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas.” Effective March 23, 2022.
Ohio Rev. Code 4301.82(B). 2022. “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas.” Effective March 23, 2022.
Ohio Rev. Code 4301.82(C). 2022. “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas.” Effective March 23, 2022.
Ohio Rev. Code 4301.82(D). 2015. “Designated Outdoor Refreshment Areas.” Effective April 30, 2015.
Ohio Rev. Code 4301.62. 2016. “Opened Container of Beer or Intoxicating Liquor Prohibited at Certain Premises.” Effective September 28, 2016.
Ohio Rev. Code Section 7.16. 2014. “Abbreviated Publication.” Effective September 15, 2014.
Wiles, Isaac. 2021. “Exploring the DORA: A Growing Economic Development Tool in Ohio Communities.” Isaac Wiles Attorneys at Law, April 6, 2021.