HUDSON — Downtown restaurant and bar owners believe the city’s new outdoor drinking area will provide a boost to their businesses.

City Council on July 7 approved establishing a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in parts of downtown where people ages 21 and older can purchase alcoholic drinks in special cups at restaurants or bars, and consume the beverages while walking within that boundary. The designated DORA area includes downtown Main Street, First and Main, and the gazebo and clocktower greens. Signage will be put up to show the boundaries. Once it’s up and running, the DORA program will be in effect from noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week.

Community Development Director Greg Hannan said the city is targeting a soft opening of the DORA somewhere around Aug. 1.

"My hope is that it’s going to draw people from out of town," said Kevin Arnold, owner of Kepner’s Tavern on Main Street. Arnold said he felt the DORA gives people a reason to "stick around" downtown and visit shops and stores. He believes that merchants will "see an uptick" in business and added the DORA is "not something normal to the area."

Kepner’s has a large outdoor patio and Arnold noted that the DORA "makes a lot of sense for a place like mine."

"[I’m] in a good position to take walk ups," said Arnold.

He noted he offered outdoor dining and then indoor dining as soon as Gov. Mike DeWine gave the green light to those services.

"It’s going really well," stated Arnold.

The owner of a neighboring business agreed with Arnold that the DORA will have a positive effect for downtown merchants.

"The DORA is going to be a great addition to downtown Hudson," said Kevin Altomare, co-owner of Hudson’s Restaurant. "This should encourage people to come downtown, grab a bite, then order a drink to go and be able to walk around and browse all of the quaint locally owned retail shops that make Hudson what it is." 

Altomare said he felt this added component will help make the city "even more of a destination point."

Benny Boysel, general manager at Three Palms Pizzeria on Village Way, said he believes the DORA will be "beneficial" to his business and others within the boundary.

Three Palms’ outdoor dining area currently seats about 40 to 45 people and Boysel said he’s seen an "increase in the number of people" who would like to have a meal outdoors. At the same time, COVID-19 has lowered the amount of outdoor seating that Boysel is able to make available.

The social distancing needed during COVID-19 also means customers who are waiting to be seated are not able to gather in large numbers inside the restaurant. With the DORA, a customer who is waiting for a table could grab a drink "and then walk around" downtown, Boysel said. He added his staff would be able to text customers when their table is ready. Having the DORA, Boysel said, "allows us to keep that line of business."

Boysel noted with picnic tables set up in some public areas, as well as outdoor dining allowed on some city sidewalks, the DORA will offer another feature that will draw people downtown.

"People want that experience… of dining out," said Boysel.

Boysel said Three Palms has been open for business with at least carryout service throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. During the last few months, Boysel said he’s been "blown away by the support we’ve received … from the Hudson community." 

Other liquor permit holders in the DORA are: One Red Door/Flipside, 49 Village Way West; Aladdin’s Eatery, 44 Park Lane; D’Agnese Tomato Grill, 106 First St.; Downtown 140, 140 North Main St.; Farinacci Pizza, 86 Owen Brown St.; Luchita’s Mexican Restaurant, 36 Park Lane; and Heinen’s of Hudson, 19 Clinton St. The 11th business in the proposed DORA that has a pending permit is Revival Social Club, 200 N. Main St.

What’s next

Now that council approved the legislation, Hannan said the city is sending an application to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control. He added each liquor permit-carrying business within the DORA will be given a revised liquor permit for the special program.

Destination Hudson, the Merchants of Hudson and the Hudson Chamber of Commerce have been working with the city to implement the DORA and will be creating the special cups, signs and other materials needed to launch the program.

More information on the rules and regulations will be released once the city receives approval from the state. For more information, visit www.hudson.oh.us/DORA.

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