Public hearing for Ravenna DORA draws supportive crowd, some dissent

·3 min read
Supporters are hoping a designated outdoor entertainment district in Ravenna will help bring people downtown.
Supporters are hoping a designated outdoor entertainment district in Ravenna will help bring people downtown.

Ravenna City Council heard plenty of support for a downtown Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area during a public hearing this week, but not everyone was on board.

Ravenna resident Tim Thomas, who is an attorney, acknowledged the work council put in to drafting the ordinance, commending them on following, to the letter, the provision in the Ohio Revised Code that allows for the formation of a DORA. However, he said, he opposes the ordinance based on his own convictions.

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A DORA allows patrons of participating bars and restaurants to purchase alcoholic beverages and then carry them out of that establishment in specific areas of the city.

Thomas argued that creating the DORA runs contrary to the municipal government's obligation to "the health, safety, and welfare of the community."  In his view, the ordinance is unnecessary, in Ravenna or any other city.

This map, drawn by Ravenna's engineering department, shows the boundaries of the proposed Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in Ravenna.
This map, drawn by Ravenna's engineering department, shows the boundaries of the proposed Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area in Ravenna.

"I don't think I can think of any situation where the presence of alcoholic beverages has enhanced, or created a better situation for people," Thomas said.

To illustrate his point, he cited 31 civil domestic violence filings in Portage County's Domestic Relations court over 24 business days in May. Thomas said that he's willing to stake his life on the bet that more than half of those cases involved alcohol.

A provision in the Ohio Revised Code stipulates that after five years the legislative body creating an outdoor refreshment area is required to review operations inside the DORA, and vote on legislation either dissolving the district, or allow its continued existence.

Thomas said that, should the ordinance pass, he will be back in five years.

"I'll be asking for a very thorough review of what's happened during that time period, and what it has done to enhance the health, safety, or welfare of the citizens of Ravenna," he said.

Jim Wade, owner of West Main Street Winery & Brewery, and one of three permit holders inside the city's proposed DORA limits, assured councilthat his business takes the matter seriously. Wade said that he wasn't taking chances with his liquor license, and that anyone leaving his establishment with a drink in their hands would be screened before stepping foot on the street. Anyone causing trouble, he added, would not be allowed back in his establishment.

"The point of the DORA is to get people into the downtown," said Amy Adams, president of Main Street Ravenna's Board of Directors. "The idea is to get people to move from place to place in the town, and enjoy the atmosphere of our city."

Adams added that she's confident the committee that crafted the ordinance has put sufficient thought into the rules and regulations governing the outdoor refreshment zone. Tavern and restaurant owners inside the DORA have said that they won't be taking any chances with their liquor licenses on the line, Adams said.

Kent resident Erik Zemljic owns a building on Cedar Street inside the DORA limits. He expressed his support for the project, saying that at some point he'd like to open a shop on his property. Anything attracting people and businesses to Ravenna is an exciting prospect, he said.

Michelle Young, of Lugapha's Smoked BBQ, told council that she sees the DORA as a chance for Ravenna to show outsiders that there's more to the city than one might think.

Ryann Kuchenbecker, executive director of theRavenna Chamber of Commerce expressed her feeling that the DORA will be a boon to Ravenna's outdoor events schedule. Kuchenbecker finds it unlikely that there will be much traffic from business to business at first, barring a downtown event.

"This is an opportunity to try this, and see how it works," Kuchenbecker said. "You don't know if you don't try."

Council President R. Andrew Kluge said a vote will be held on the ordinance creating the DORA at council's next regular meeting at 6 p.m. June 6 in Council Chambers at City Hall, 210 S. Park Way.

Contact reporter Derek Kreider at dkreider@gannett.com

This article originally appeared on Record-Courier: Mostly supportive crowd turns out for public hearing on Ravenna DORA