HUDSON — People heading downtown may soon be able to take a stroll in a designated area with an alcoholic drink purchased at certain establishments and dine outdoors at more restaurants.

These are two more approaches that city leaders want to implement to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At its workshop on May 27, city council discussed creating a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) on 32.5 acres in the downtown area. Creating a DORA would allow customers to purchase alcoholic beverages from liquor permit-holding businesses in the designated area and then walk around with their drink in a special branded cup in a specific geographic area.

Council members favored moving forward quickly on the issue.

"It’s definitely great to try," said Council member Beth Bigham (Ward 4).

Council member Skylar Sutton (Ward 3) added he felt the city should move forward and "figure out how to make this happen."

Council President Bill Wooldredge (At Large) said he felt the DORA was "a great idea."

"The sooner we can get this implemented, the better," noted Wooldredge.

A first reading for the legislation was scheduled for council’s meeting on June 2. A public hearing is scheduled for June 16, which is also when the second reading for the legislation would happen. Council would then discuss the issue at its workshop on June 23. The legislation would receive a third reading at the July 7 meeting, which is when council could vote to form the DORA.

If the legislation is approved, the city would apply to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control which would then issue permits to all liquor permit holders located in the DORA. There are 10 current liquor permit holders and an 11th business with a pending permit in the proposed DORA. The businesses are located on Main Street, Park Lane, First Street, Owen Brown Street, and Village Way. City spokesperson Jody Roberts said these businesses can choose whether or not they participate in the DORA.

Council on May 26 also discussed working with merchants to allow outdoor seating areas for restaurants on public sidewalks. Community Development Director Greg Hannan said there are several restaurants interested in either offering outdoor dining or expanding the area in which they offer outdoor dining along both the North Main streetscape and the First and Main sidewalks. Council in 2004 approved a master license agreement to allow cafe seating when the First and Main area was established. Since then, the city has approved a few "site-specific" license agreements, said Hannan.

Council agreed to move forward with legislation on June 2 to expand the area where outdoor dining can be licensed on public sidewalks downtown. The legislation that will go before council would expand the area that allows outdoor dining to include: North Main Street, from state Route 303 to Owen Brown Street; Clinton Street from N. Main Street to Morse Road; First Street from 303 to Clinton Street; Park Lane; Village Way; and Library Street.

The location of the outdoor dining would be reviewed to ensure it meets the criteria set up in the legislation, according to city spokesperson Jody Roberts. If the criteria are met, a license agreement would be issued. Hannan clarified that businesses need to get license agreements if they want to have outdoor dining on public property.

The city already allows outdoor dining as an accessory use on private property under Land Development Code regulations. Restaurants that want to have outdoor dining on their private property can contact the community development department for guidance on acquiring the necessary approvals.

More about the DORA

The Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce, the Merchants of Hudson Association, and Destination Hudson all requested the creation of a DORA.

In addition to helping downtown businesses, implementing a DORA would, "offer additional opportunities for the community to transition back to socialization, while helping to keep Hudson a top-of-mind destination for visitors," said Roberts.

Council and the administration want to implement the DORA as a pilot program through December 2020. 

Here are the rules that would govern the DORA:

1. Hours of operation would be seven days a week from noon to 9 p.m. 

2. The boundaries would be in the downtown for the Main Street and First and Main area.

3. Alcoholic beverages could be purchased (must be 21 or older and supply an ID) from a liquor permit holder that is located within the DORA. DORA beverages would be sold in specifically branded DORA cups. Drinks not purchased in a DORA cup cannot be taken from the premises.

4. Participants could drink and walk around inside the designated area which would be marked by signage. The beverages could not be taken from one bar/restaurant to another.

5. Establishments offering DORA drinks would have signage indicating they are participating in the program or that DORA drinks are welcome in a retail establishment.

6. Individuals cannot bring their own alcoholic drinks into the district. Walking around with an alcoholic drink that is not in a designated DORA plastic cup is not permitted. No cans, glass, or other unapproved alcohol is allowed.

Rhonda Kadish, the city’s special events coordinator, said the branded DORA cup is a required component of the program. Council on May 26 discussed possibly using wristbands for the DORA program, but opinions on that were mixed.

Wooldredge said he felt it was best to "keep [the program] as simple as possible."

Kadish said there would be signage on the outer boundaries telling customers that they cannot walk past a certain point with their alcoholic beverage.

Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, pkeren@recordpub.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.