Oxford City Council passed an extension to Oxford’s Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) during its Nov. 3 meeting. The DORA will run from Nov. 27 to Jan. 22.
Within the DORA, adults are permitted to buy and drink alcohol in open containers from participating vendors.
“I think we all agree we’ve got to do what we can to help our restaurants and our other businesses during this long cold winter,” City Manager Doug Elliott said. “Some of them are really facing some difficult times.”
The DORA would go into effect just before Miami’s finals week. Elliott said he hopes students will have returned home by this time.
Jessica Greene, assistant city manager, said the city is looking to turn the DORA on every year.
“The goal would be, with so many students departing the region, that we have a way to encourage a way to support local businesses, and [the DORA] is one way we can do this,” Greene said.
Vice Mayor Bill Snavely said he wasn’t sure if students would actually be gone. He said he predicts many off-campus students will remain in Oxford.
“I don’t know that this is a good idea,” Snavely said. “I don’t know that in the winter there’s going to be that many people who want to walk outside with a drink, unless they’re students.”
Snavely was the only councilor to vote against the resolution.
Greene said there would not be any changes to the program. The city was looking into having the Oxford Community Arts Center (OCAC) join as a participating business, but Greene said the city was not able to include OCAC.
“We were not opposed to [including OCAC],” Greene said. “But what we learned is that in order to engage them as a formal participant in the DORA, we would have to re-turn in our entire application to the state. And we just don't have time to do that, but we did tell them what we would try to get them included for the summer.”
Greene said the city is still planning to reactivate the DORA during the summer after students leave for summer break.
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Ann Kamphaus, owner of Books & Brews, said since students returned, her business has seen about 40% of normal sales. She’s hoping the DORA will encourage more community members to come out and shop in her store, as well as buy drinks from the bar.
“When they come and get their drinks, I’m hopeful they’ll look around the store a bit and purchase merchandise as well as their DORA drinks,” Kamphaus said.
Kamphaus said during the summer DORA, she was able to mix cold drinks. But the winter DORA has made her rethink her menu to include warmer drinks. She hopes that will drive more full-time residents in.
“I don't have a lot of community members coming out right now, but we definitely have quite a few students that are a very supportive group,” Kamphaus said.
Greene and the members of City Council are hopeful the DORA will help stimulate the local economy.
“Anything that we can do to encourage the economy to be successful and to keep our businesses in business is to be welcomed,” Councilor Edna Southard said. “And if we have to adjust, if we have to make changes, fine. But at least we’re trying.”