DORA in WCH awaiting state approval


Approximately 63.22 acres. That’s how much space the new DORA (Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area) will be allotted in downtown Washington Court House if the application is approved by the state.

The proposal has already passed through its third and final Washington C.H. City Council reading with a 4-2 favorable vote from the council.

Essentially, a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area is a specified location in which individuals are able to purchase alcohol from businesses selling it legally and can then take the alcoholic beverage outside the business to visit other locations within the DORA.

The current proposed DORA for Washington C.H. has an area marked around downtown in a “minimal residential area,” according to officials. The DORA would be highly regulated, according to officials.

The new ordinance has stirred a lot of controversy within the city. Many support the idea of having a DORA, while some oppose it as well.

Angela Williams-Gebhardt, a local realtor who is in favor of the proposal explained, “I know how important it is to have a DORA because it will generate foot traffic for all of the downtown businesses. Drinking, eating, shopping; that’s what people do when they come downtown.”

Williams-Gebhardt recently organized her first-annual celebration of “women business owners” and believes this idea would ensure that these businesses would thrive in the years to come.

Many are concerned that allowing open containers in the downtown area would pose a threat to the safety of this town’s residents, especially children.

Ted Hawk, one of the two city council members who voted against the proposal explained, “I don’t think it’s a good idea to carry open containers in the downtown area or anywhere for that matter. The law is in place for good reason, to ensure the safety of the community.”

The four businesses within the district that have the option to participate in the DORA are Woodys Cafe, Elks Lodge 129, Back En Thyme, and Salty Broads Patio. Some businesses have already declined and have decided to not participate.

A local bartender shared her views saying, “I don’t think it would benefit us. What’s stopping people from filling their own cups with alcohol out of their vehicles? It would be more of a headache.”

In order to legally drink within the boundary, you would need to have a designated plastic cup with the DORA logo on the side, provided to you by one of the businesses that have agreed to take part. Also, with each refill of your cup, your I.D. would need to be provided to help prevent the misuse of alcohol and make sure a lost or stolen cup wouldn’t allow a minor to drink.

“You’re highly regulated and it’s far from chaos with alcohol,” said Washington C.H. City Manager Joe Denen. “You have to be inside the DORA district and would only be allowed to participate on the first and second Fridays and Saturdays of each month. There are time restrictions as well: 5 p.m.-10 p.m. on Fridays and 12 p.m.-10 p.m. on Saturdays.”

Along with the businesses that will be serving the alcohol, any stores that wish to not have alcohol in their establishments have the option to refuse service. In addition, like any other new bill or proposal, amendments can be made along the way to make sure it works for the community in the best way possible.

Jim Blair, also one of the council members who voted against this proposal, shared his views with the Record-Herald on why the DORA wouldn’t be the best idea for this area.

“One is the large area encompassing the DORA zone, the library and churches fall within that area,” explained Blair. “Secondly, one of the liquor permit holders in the designated area serves hard liquor. It’s one thing to have a beer and wine as a beverage option, but hard liquor presents even more of an enforcement challenge.”

Many people think that implementing this proposal for a DORA would help modernize the city and enable local businesses to prosper as they were before COVID.

“In order to update anything, there has to be change,” noted Williams-Gebhardt.

More information about a plan and system for the DORA will be available in the near future once the state application process is complete.

The proposed boundaries for DORA in downtown Washington C.H. proposed boundaries for DORA in downtown Washington C.H. Courtesy map
Community members debate pros, cons of outdoor refreshment area

By Abby Shrout

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