The following reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.
DORA has recently become a central topic in conversations throughout Miami University and Oxford — and no, we’re not talking about the lovable cartoon character with the purple backpack, talking map and fox nemesis.
The acronym stands for Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area. If you don’t know what that is, you have likely spent summer and winter breaks outside Oxford.
A Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area is a designated space in a city — usually a few blocks — in which certain DORA-labeled alcoholic drinks from participating businesses are allowed to be consumed outdoors from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Essentially, it’s a way to legally circumvent open container laws and support small businesses at the same time.
Oxford’s DORA covers important off-campus alcohol locations such as Fiesta Charra, the Corner Grill & Drinkery, The O’Pub, The Woods/New Bar and, of course, Brick Street.
The DORA is only operational during the summer months and winter break, however, so students rarely get to enjoy its advantages. It always opens after Miami students leave and it always closes just before their return.
For the first time since the DORA’s implementation in 2020, Oxford is considering changing this and making the DORA year-round. This would allow students to participate in drinking alcoholic beverages outdoors, at least from participating businesses and between the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m.
The Editorial Board would like to ask: is this really necessary?
The DORA plan was originally created to help Uptown restaurants and bars stay profitable during the pandemic and help when Oxford was lacking in the business that the students provide. If Uptown is already crowded when the students are here — and trust us, the Chipotle and Brick Street lines alone prove that it is — why would the DORA be needed?
The DORA is meant to allow Oxford residents to enjoy their adult beverages outside during the nice summer weather. It is meant to allow parents to take their kids to the park Uptown without having to sacrifice the beer they were having at Mac & Joe’s. And, most of all, it is meant to help the businesses of Oxford stay in business during the “off months” of the year, when Miami students are not in town and, therefore, neither is the majority of the cash flow.
Worse, what is there to say that students would not abuse the power given to them by this program?
The Oxford police, in their Weekend Updates on their Facebook page, already cite multiple cases of public intoxication per post. The DORA is only active until 11 p.m. daily, so this would likely encourage more people to go out and start drinking earlier, leading to more intoxication — and, probably, more cases of public intoxication.
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The Weekend Update also often includes stories of fake IDs being confiscated from underage drinkers. If students are willing to go to the extreme to find ways to drink, what would keep them from using the DORA as an excuse to drink in public? Fake IDs are easy enough to come by in this town; fake (or simply reused) DORA cups would likely be even easier to find.
We’re not prohibitionists. But we’re more afraid that DORA could promote unsafe and unhealthy choices for our friends and classmates.
In fairness, all of that is also assuming that students would educate themselves on the rules of the DORA — the physical boundaries, the time limits, the labeled cups and the participating businesses. Especially in the late spring and early fall when the weather is particularly nice, drinking outside becomes a go-to for students — just look at how popular darties and Beat the Clock are.
If one student were to start drinking outside in a DORA cup, other students would likely follow, with or without the proper cup.
Finally, is the city prepared to deal with the environmental, financial and authoritative responsibilities of extending the DORA to the school year?
Providing DORA cups to anyone who wants to drink their purchased drink outside is a huge strain on the city waste-wise. Sure, the cups are compostable, but they’re still single-use plastics and that is not necessarily the most environmentally (or financially) friendly option.
Plus, encouraging students to drink legally outdoors would necessitate a much heavier police presence, especially around the DORA boundaries to ensure that the consumption of alcohol would stay inside the allowed space. Extending the DORA year-round would require restructuring of waste management, funds and police patrols throughout Oxford.
If you’re going to blur the lines on open container laws, you need to be prepared to handle the repercussions.
Oxford’s economy is certainly strong enough during the school year to survive without a DORA, and bringing the consumption of alcohol to the outdoors would likely cause more problems than it would solve. The bars exist for a reason, and Oxford should keep the bar scene — the alcohol, the drunkenness and the party — inside of them.